The vitreous is similar to a clear viscous gel and it fills the back part of the eye and helps to maintain the shape of the eye. It fills the space behind the lens in our eye to our retina. The vitreous has fibers that attach to our retina. It is normal for the vitreous to shrink and liquefy with age. It often eventually separates from the back of the eye. This is called a vitreous detachment.
What is Vitreous Degeneration?
Vitreous degeneration is when the vitreous liquefies and shrinks. The fibers that attached to the retina can separate from the retina with time. This is caused a vitreous detachment.
It is normal for this to occur with age. If you have had previous cataract surgery, trauma or high myopia the vitreous can often degenerate faster that it otherwise would.
What is a Vitreous Detachment?
A vitreous detachment is when the vitreous pulls away from the retina. This is very common especially after age 80. You may experience new floaters in your vision and you may see flashes or lightening streaks of light in your vision when this is occurring. This can be very scary and worrisome for you!
It is normal for you to notice floaters of different shapes and sizes. You may see the floater as more circular or more linear in shape. The floaters may move around in your vision and sometimes can interfere with your vision. Most people get used to the floaters with time and they often become less bothersome and not as noticeable.
What Should I Do if I Notice New Floaters?
If you notice new floaters or flashes of light, it is important that you have a dilated examination. It is important that Dr. Stanley Grandon, Dr. Cindy Wang or I ensure that there is no retinal tear or retinal detachment. This would need immediate treatment to ensure no vision loss occurs. It is important that you call our office immediately if you notice any new floaters or flashes.
Floaters are when you see a small clump or cloud moving around in your vision. You may notice them more when looking at a white background.
Floaters become more common as we age. They form when the jelly that fills the back of our eye liquefies with age. Portions of the vitreous often clump together and you notice a floater moving around in the vision.
A floater may present in different shapes and sizes. For example, you may notice a circle, a line or strand, a clump or a cobweb shape.
Why do we get Floaters?
As we age, the vitreous jelly that fills the back of our eye liquefies. As the jelly liquefies and shrinks, you may notice new floaters. The vitreous jelly often pulls away from the back of our eye as we age causing a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).
Why do we get Flashes?
Flashes are when you see lightning streaks or stars in your vision. We often see flashes when the vitreous jelly is trying to pull away from the retina. Traction can occur and this can give the sensation of flashes of light in your vision. Flashes related to your retina usually last a only a few seconds. Flashes lasting several minutes can be caused by other problems such as a migraine.
Why Do I Need To Have an Urgent Eye Examination?
New floaters and flashes can possibly be a symptoms of a retinal tear or a retinal detachment. This can be vision threatening. As the vitreous gel liquefies and shrinks it pulls away from the retina.
It is possible that your new floaters or flashes could signal a serious ocular problem. There is no way to tell if you have a retinal tear or retinal detachment without an examination. It is important to have an urgent dilated eye examination to check for a retinal problem. It is also important to call if you notice a curtain or window shade in your vision.