This generally clear gel inside the eye allows light to pass from the lens to the retina. It is replaced with sterile saline during a vitrectomy. After a vitrectomy, the eye replaces this saline with its own fluid within a few weeks.
This is often the only way to get enough medication into the eye to treat many serious conditions. During this quick procedure, a very fine needle is passed through the sclera, the white part of the eye. Most patients feel a pressure sensation in the eye with a mild irritation afterwards. The irritation or “foreign body.”
A sensation is caused by the cleaning solution needed to prevent infection. A single use dropper of artificial tears can be used to help ease symptoms. Floaters, redness of the eye, or a spot of bleeding at the injection site are common symptoms that resolve with time. Infections can be a serious side effect and happen rarely, generally less than 1 in 3,000 injections. It is important to follow the precautions prescribed after an injection.
If you’re reading this, you probably have flashes and floaters and have already had a full ocular examination. The information will review the condition and symptoms of a retinal tear and/or detachment.
Floaters are small specks or clouds that move across your field of vision. They are frequently visible on a plain background, such as a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells contained within the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid that fills your eye.
These objects appear to be in front of your eyes but floating within. What you see are the shadows cast by the objects on the retina, the nerve layer at the back of the eye that detects light and allows you to see. Floaters come in various shapes, including little dots, circles, lines, chains, clouds, and cobwebs.
When people reach their forties, the vitreous gel begins to shrink, causing clumps and strands to form inside the eye. The vitreous gel draws away from the back wall of the eye, causing the jelly in the eye to break down. This condition is not harmful in and of itself and is a normal part of the aging process. The most common source of floaters is clumped gel. While age is the most common cause of vitreous gel breakdown, the following factors may also contribute to floaters:
- Are near-sighted
- Have undergone cataract operations
- Have had YAG laser surgery of the eye (after cataract surgery)
- Have had inflammation inside the eye (uveitis)
When shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, the retina can tear. This frequently results in minor bleeding in the eye, which can manifest as new floaters. A torn retina is always a serious issue because it can cause retinal detachment and blindness. As a result, you should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible if you notice the following:
- A large clump of floaters (that are too many to count) appear suddenly
- You see sudden flashes or arcs of light that you have not seen previously
Other symptoms, such as loss of side vision, could point to developing a retinal detachment. In this case, you should return for another evaluation.
Floaters can obstruct clear vision, which can be particularly bothersome when reading. To move the floaters out of the way, move your eyes up and down. While some floaters will remain in your vision, many will fade and become less bothersome with time. Even if you’ve had floaters for a long time, you should get an eye exam immediately if you notice any new ones.
If you’ve ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars,” you’ve probably felt the same way. When the vitreous shrinks, it tugs on the retina, causing a flashing light sensation. Light flashes can occur intermittently for several weeks or months. It is more common as we get older to have flashes. If you notice sudden light flashes, you should see your ophthalmologist immediately to see if the retina has been torn. Because the retina cannot transmit a tugging sensation, any tugging of the retina is usually misinterpreted as a flash.
Flashes of light that appear as jagged lines or “heat waves” in both eyes, lasting 10-20 minutes, are experienced by some people. These flashes are typically caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain, a condition known as migraine. A migraine headache occurs when a headache follows the flashes. Jagged lines or “heat waves” can occur without causing a headache. The light flashes, in this case, are referred to as ophthalmic migraine or migraine without headache.
Your pupils will be dilated with eye drops when an ophthalmologist examines your eyes. Your ophthalmologist will carefully examine your retina and vitreous during this painless exam. You may need someone to drive you home after dilating your eyes. Floaters and light flashes become more common as we age. While not all floaters and flashes are serious, you should always have a medical eye examination performed by an ophthalmologist to ensure that your retina has not been damaged.