Floaters occur because of changes in the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the inside of the eyeball.  The vitreous jelly shrinks as you get older, and slowly pulls away from the inside surface of the eye.

This shrinking and separation or detachment of the vitreous from the retina is a common phenomenon, particularly in people over 50 years of age, and causes no retinal damage in nine out of 10 patients.  It is known as a posterior vitreous detachment or PVD.

Floaters rarely lead to any serious problems, so you generally don’t need any treatment for them.  If they are troublesome, the effect of floaters might be minimised by wearing dark glasses.  This will help especially in bright sunlight or when looking at a brightly lit surface.  In many cases, the flashes disappear with time and the floaters get less noticeable as the brain adjusts to the changes in the vitreous.

If you develop flashes of light (seen as scintillating stars) or your floaters become much worse, you should consult  your optometrist (optician) or visit a specialist A&E department to exclude any serious retinal problems.  If you see a black shadow or a curtain effect or you suddenly lose vision, you should go to your nearest A&E Department without any delay.

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