When the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, you may see what look like flashing lights or lightning streaks. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars.” The flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months.
As we grow older, it is more common to experience floaters and flashes as the vitreous gel changes with age, gradually pulling away from the inside surface of the eye.
You may sometimes see small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. These are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear, gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. While these objects look like they are in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside it. Floaters can appear as different shapes, such as little dots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs.
As we grow older, it is also more common to experience flashes and floaters. Their appearance may be alarming, especially if they develop very suddenly.
To find out if a retinal tear or detachment is occurring, you should call Southwestern Eye Associates right away if you notice the following symptoms (especially if you are over 45 years of age):
- A sudden increase in size and number of floaters
- A sudden appearance of flashes
- Having a shadow appear in the periphery (side) of your field of vision
- Seeing a gray curtain moving across your field of vision
- Having a sudden decrease in your vision