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What causes eye floaters and flashes?

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Eye floaters and flashes can be the result of the retina becoming detached from the inner back of the eye or the vitreous pulling away from the retina, says Marilyn Haddrill of All About Vision. Ordinary eye floaters that are no cause for alarm can also cause these symptoms.

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Additional eye conditions that can lead to eye flashes and floaters include CMV retinitis, diabetes, swelling inside of the eye, nearsightedness and cataract surgery, notes Haddrill. Posterior vitreous detachments are especially common in individuals who have had cataract surgery or a YAG laser capsulotomy.

Ordinary eye floaters and flashes fade over time, but more severe or sudden floaters and flashes might require emergency surgery, says Haddrill. In most cases, the only time a doctor might agree to perform surgery to treat ordinary floaters and flashes is if the individual's ability to see were limited. In a vitrectomy procedure, the surgeon removes the vitreous from the eye and replaces it with a saline liquid.

More than half of all individuals experience vitreous detachment by the time they are 80, notes Haddrill. Those who have posterior vitreous detachments in addition to light flashes have roughly a 15 percent chance of experiencing a retinal tear.

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