What are the causes of floaters?

In the young eye, the vitreous gel is a thin transparent jelly of uniform consistency attached to the eye’s inside wall. As the eye ages, small pockets of liquid vitreous can develop within the gel leaving a ‘carpet’ of jelly over the retina.

These small pockets may develop into large pockets and lead to the gel peeling away. As this happens, the retina may produce light flashes (photopsia) or can sometimes be torn. Light scattering by opacities or blood in the vitreous gel may appear as “floaters”. If a tear occurs and goes untreated, it can eventually lead to retinal detachment.

The appearance of new floaters, along with flashing lights, may indicate a serious retinal problem. This should be treated as a medical emergency with professional medical advice sought within 24 hours.

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