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Floaters

Floaters are what you may see when you notice small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. You can often see them when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are actually tiny clumps of cells or material inside the vitreous, the clear, gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye.

When the vitreous gel pulls on the retina, you may see what look like flashing lights or lightning streaks. These are called flashes. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and saw "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.

Usually, the vitreous moves away from the retina without causing problems. But sometimes the vitreous pulls hard enough to tear the retina in one or more places. Fluid may pass through a retinal tear, lifting the retina off the back of the eye — much as wallpaper can peel off a wall. When the retina is pulled away from the back of the eye like this, it is called a retinal detachment. You should have your eyes checked by your eye doctor if you experience sudden floaters or flashes.

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