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Flashes and Floaters (PVD)

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), while occasionally producing some unpleasant symptoms, does not normally cause sight loss. With age, the eye’s shape changes and the transparent vitreous jelly filling the eye loses its rigidity. As a result, the vitreous slowly move forwards, away from the retina at the back of the eye and becomes more mobile.

Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)



PVD can often proceed uneventfully, but can also cause the following symptoms:

  • Floaters (dark spots and lines moving across the vision especially against a clear sky or backlit screen or monitor)
  • Photopsia (small flashes of light)
  • A cobweb effect across the vision


One or all of these symptoms may be present in varying intensity. If you have any of these symptoms your eyes should be fully examined by an ophthalmic surgeon. If any of the following symptoms occur you should be examined immediately:

  • Sudden appearance of new floaters or increase in their size/number
  • Flashes of light/change or increase in flashing lights
  • Blurred vision
  • A dark or blurry curtain permanently obscuring part of your vision


These symptoms may be indicative of a more serious condition such as a retinal tear or retinal detachment. With a retinal tear and retinal detachment, early diagnosis and treatment are paramount in ensuring the best outcome.



A full ophthalmological examination is performed by the ophthalmologist. This includes instilling drops to dilate the pupils to allow examination of the vitreous and the retina. These drops will blur vision for around four to six hours and you may not drive until the effects have worn off.

A slit lamp (microscope) is used to examine the eye and check for retinal tears/holes.


Posterior Vitreous Detachment Treatment

Professor Michel Michaelides

Medical Retina & Inherited Retinal Disease Specialist

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Mr Jaheed Khan

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
Medical Retina & Cataract Surgeon

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Ms Esther Posner

Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon
Medical Retina specialist

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Surgical and Medical Retina Specialist
Cataract Surgeon

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Frequently Asked Questions.

Attached to the retina is a “jelly-like” gel that divides the retina and lens. The detachment of this gel can cause flashes or floater patterns which can affect your vison. This occurs naturally usually around the ages of 55-60.

Flashes in your vision will go away over time usually taking up to half a year. Floaters will stay around longer. They will gradually get smaller and become less visible over the weeks and months. However, floaters will never completely disappear.

Seeing-eye flashes are usually harmless. However, the sudden appearance of flashes and floaters and a sudden occurrence of impaired vision can be a sign of more serious eye problems, particularly in an older person.

For most people seeing flashes and floaters is a symptom of vitreous detachment which in most people is something not to worry about. Although, as the vitreous begins to separate from the retina in some cases it may cause a tear. This would cause the sudden appearance flashes/floaters and impaired vision. This potentially is very harmful to a person’s permanent vison and an ophthalmologist should be contacted immediately.

Stress isn’t a direct cause of eye floaters or flashes, but flashes and floaters are caused by deterioration of the vitreous humour. When the human body is stressed it produces a hormone called Epinephrine (also called adrenaline) which causes the pupils to dilate which causes eye-strain. This means that stress isn’t directly linked to floaters and flashes bit can make a pre-existing condition worse.

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