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What Are Floaters and Flashes?

Posted on January 17th, 2017

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According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, millions of Canadians are affected by “floaters” and “flashes,” a common eye condition that can be indicative of a more serious problem.

So, what exactly is a floater? Essentially, it’s a small clump of cells or material that is floating in your eye’s vitreous (the jelly-like liquid that helps your eyeball keep its shape). As the debris moves around, it casts a shadow on your retina, which is what you end up seeing. Often when people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. Floaters occur when the vitreous gel detaches from the surface of your retina, which cause a “flash” across your vision and often a ring-shaped floater to appear temporarily.

While there is currently no “cure” for floaters, simply giving your eyes a much-needed rest could help a great deal in terms of reducing the number of floaters you may experience. You should also take frequent breaks when reading, watching TV or using a computer, and be sure to get plenty of sleep to give your eyes time to properly rest.

While floaters sometimes will clear up on their own, they could be the symptom of a more serious issue, and can become even more of an issue as we grow older.  If the vitreous gel shrinks and pulls away from the wall of the eye, the retina can tear. This sometimes causes bleeding inside the eye that may appear as new floaters. A torn retina can lead to retinal detachment.

Ultimately, the best way to find out is by speaking with an optometrist. They can help diagnose the problem, offer treatment that may help alleviate symptoms and ensure that your eyes are working in the best way possible.

If floaters and flashes are a regular problem for you, be sure to book an exam with an FYidoctors optometrist.