Why Do I See Floaters in My Vision?

by Oct 12, 2020

It is possible that at your last eye examination, your optometrist may have mentioned the importance of coming back to the clinic if you ever experience flashing lights or are noticing new floaters in your vision. However, when you come into the office in this case, you are told that you are experiencing a posterior vitreous detachment, or PVD. Below is a quick summary of what is happening to the eye, what to look out for and whether or not treatment is needed.

Why Do Floaters Occur?

The majority of the eye is filled with a jelly-like substance known as the vitreous. With age, the vitreous liquifies and shrinks in size, separating from the nerve layer at the back of the eye. It is important to remember that this is a normal process that happens in everyone, although at different times. At 50 years of age, 50 % of people have already had a PVD. At 60 years of age, 60 % have already had this occur, and so on.

Individuals with high amounts of nearsightedness may experience this change in their vitreous in earlier years. Other conditions that are associated with an earlier onset of this change are diabetes, intraocular surgery or inflammation in the eye. An eye injury or trauma can also cause a PVD to occur earlier in life. This could be associated with other ocular injuries such as commotio retinae, which is similar to having a concussion in the eye. Other times, there could be no long term effects.

There are often no complications with this process but in some cases, as the vitreous is liquifying, it can tug on the nerves at the back of the eye and consequently create a tear. If not caught in time, this tear can ultimately lead to vision loss peripherally or centrally. In rare cases, the vitreous could also tug and break blood vessels at the back of the eye, leading to darkened vision as blood collects within the eye.

Why Do I See Flashing Lights?

As the vitreous is separating from the nerve layer at the back of the eye (the retina), it can tug on the nerves, making them fire or activate and causing one to notice a flash of light in their vision. This often occurs peripherally and can go away. If a shadow, a sudden and dramatic increase in the number of floaters, or the perception of a curtain coming down is seen, this can be a sign of a retinal detachment in progress.

Is There a Treatment for It?

There is no treatment needed for a PVD as it is a natural occurrence and stage in development. As the vitreous pulls away from the back of the eye, the risk of a complication from this process is most likely to occur within 6 weeks of the initial onset of symptoms. Our optometrist may request that you return to the office about 6 weeks after the initial onset of symptoms to ensure that the liquefaction process is completed without complications.


Our eye doctors at Wilmington Family Eye Care in Wilmington, DE excel in prescription of glasses, contact lenses and the diagnosis of a variety of eye diseases. Call our optometrists at 302-299-1286 or schedule an eye exam appointment online if you would like to learn more about floaters and flashes. Our eye doctors, Drs. Daniel Baruffi, Joseph Goldberg, Karen Darrell and Patricia Jones provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Wilmington, Delaware and its surrounding areas.

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