Which are the “floaters”?

Floaters or “flying flies” are actually small accumulations of gel or cells inside the vitreous humour, the clear gel-like substance that fills the inside of the eye. What you see are the shadows created by those accumulations in the retina, the nervous layer that is at the back of the eye, which absorbs light and allows you to see. They can have different shapes: small spots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs.

When people reach their middle age years, the vitreous gel can start to thicken or contract, creating accumulations or bands inside the eye. The vitreous gel pulls on the back of the eye causing rear vitreous detachment. This is a common cause for “flying flies” or floaters.

The onset of “flying flies” can be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly. If you notice new floaters, you need to contact an ophthalmologist as soon as possible, more so if you are over 45.

Can “floaters” be a serious problem?

The retina can break if the contracted vitreous gel pulls on the wall of the eye. Sometimes, this causes slight bleeding inside the eye that may look like new “flying flies”. Retina tearing is always a serious problem, as it can cause retinal detachment.

What causes flashes of light?

You may experience the sensation of seeing lights. When the vitreous contracts, it pulls on the retina creating flashing lights. Light flashes may appear and disappear for weeks or months. As we become older, experiencing this sensation is more common. If you notice a sudden appearance of lights, you need to contact an ophthalmologist as soon as possible to check if the retina has torn.