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September 2010
Seeing Stars
Floaters & Flashes in the Eye
Dr. Kura Pranati
Everybody experiences occasional specks that driftaimlessly around in the field of vision. These specks are tiny clumps of gel, debris or cells floating in the eye ball and are commonly referred to as floaters. Floaters may take up different shapes like dots, circles, lines, cobwebs or clouds.

Why do Floaters Occur?
Eye floaters commonly occur as a result of age-related changes in the vitreous humour(the clear colourless transparent jelly that fills the eyeball, and helps to maintain its shape). With age, the vitreous begins to dissolve and liquefy to create a watery centre. Un-dissolved gel particles float in the liquid centre and cast shadows on thelight sensitive nervelayer called the retina, and theseare what are perceived as floaters.

9 Causes of Floaters.
  1. Inflammations of the inner eye 
  2. Detachment of the posterior vitreous
  3. Retinal tears and retinal detachments
  4. Near sightedness (myopia)
  5. Following cataract surgery
  6. Diabetes
  7. Hypertension
  8. Haemorrhage (blood flow from a ruptured blood vessel) of the vitreous
  9. Intake of some drugs
Avoiding Floaters
Floaters are harmless and everybody experiences them at sometime or the other, especially when looking at a bright background like a clear sky or a computer screen. You can shift them out of the line of sight by moving the eyes from side to side, or up and down. Most people learn to ignore them over a period of time.

Flashes of Light
Seeing starsor floaters in the eye may indicate an emergency, which can lead to permanent vision loss.Flashes or photopsia are seen as a flicker of light in the peripheral retina. It happens when the retina is tugged, torn or detached from the back. Flashes are also common in patients with migraine who experience jagged lines or heat waves due to spasm of the blood vessels in the brain.

One inseven people who experience flashes and floaters develop retinal tear or retinal detachment. Watch out for it. It is also surveyed that more than 50 percent of people over the age of 70 years experience floaters.

Treatment Options
A complete eye examination by an eye specialist is important to make sure if the floaters you see are harmless or are due to a more serious condition. A dilated retinal examination is done. An ultrasound of the eye mayalso be required.
  • If the floaters are not dangerous to health, learn to literally overlook them.
  • But if these benign floaters are annoying, they’ll require a vitrectomy surgery.
  • Any contributing cause like retinal tears or detachment need to be treated.
  • Laser vitreolysisis also an option. Here,aYAG (Yttrium Aluminium Garnet, if you like acronyms)laser beam is shot at the floaters. Death on impact. You win.
Dr. Kura Pranati is Consultant Ophthalmologist at Apollo Hospitals, Raichur


    
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