Increased floaters in eye

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Floaters

What are floaters?

Floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that float around in the field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly. They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when you hold your eyes still.

Most people have floaters and learn to ignore them. A person with floaters usually doesn’t notice them until the floaters are large or numerous. Floaters can be more obvious when looking at something with a bright background, such as white paper or a blue sky.

What causes floaters?

Floaters happen when a part of the eye called the vitreous slowly shrinks. The vitreous is a gel-like substance that fills about 80 percent of the eye and helps it maintain a round shape. As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes stringy, and the strands that form can cast tiny shadows on the retina, the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye. These shadows can appear as floaters.

In most cases, floaters are a normal part of aging, and do not cause serious problems. They can be annoying at first, but eventually the brain adapts and “learns to ignore” these spots. If you have floaters, you might notice that when you are in areas with new lighting conditions, old floaters that you have long forgotten can “reappear”.

However, there are other, more serious causes of floaters. These include infection, inflammation (uveitis), hemorrhaging, retinal tears, and injury to the eye.

Who is at risk of floaters?

Floaters are more likely to develop as a person ages. They are more common in people who are very nearsighted, have diabetes, or who have had cataract surgery.

How are floaters treated?

If floaters don’t cause bothersome symptoms, no treatment is needed.

In some people, floaters can be so dense and numerous that they significantly obscure vision. In these rare cases, a vitrectomy surgery might be warranted.

A vitrectomy is a surgery that removes floaters along with the vitreous gel. During surgery, the vitreous is removed and replaced with a salt solution. In less than two days, the body replaces the salt solution with natural fluids, called the aqueous humor. Because the original vitreous is mostly water, the person will not notice any change between the aqueous fluid and the original vitreous.

This surgery can cause complications that might harm vision. These include retinal detachment, retinal tears, and cataract. Most eye doctors will not recommend this surgery unless the floaters cause serious problems with vision.

How are floaters related to retinal detachment?

In some cases, floaters might be a sign of a retinal detachment.

The vitreous lies on top of the retina. When the vitreous detaches from the retina, it is much like an address label being peeled off of an envelope. Sometimes, the label comes off cleanly, but other times, it tears some of the underlying envelope in the process. If the vitreous tears the retina when it detaches, the tear can worsen into a retinal detachment.

Often in a vitreous detachment, a section of the vitreous pulls fine strands away from the retina cleanly and all at once. This causes many new floaters to appear all of a sudden. In most cases, this does not threaten vision or need treatment.

In a retinal detachment, part of the retina is torn and pulled away from its normal position at the back wall of the eye. This can cause a sudden increase in floaters that might come with light flashes or peripheral (side) vision loss.

A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent vision loss within two or three days or even blindness in the eye. If you have signs of a retinal detachment, seek treatment immediately.

When is retinal detachment most likely to happen?

Retinal detachment is most likely to happen directly after a vitreous detachment. Normally, it takes three months after a person’s first floater for the vitreous to completely detach from the retina. If you have a floater for the first time, you should see your eye doctor regularly during the months following so that he or she can make sure you do not develop a retinal detachment.

If a retinal detachment is caught early, it can usually be treated with laser treatment in the eye doctor’s office. If the retinal detachment goes untreated for too long (sometimes for only a few days), a much more serious surgery such as vitrectomy or scleral buckle might be required.

If you have recently had a vitreous detachment, watch carefully for symptoms of retinal detachment, such as flashes of light, a shower of dots, and a pitch-black curtain entering and moving across your vision in any direction. If you have any of these symptoms, especially if you have more than one symptom at the same time, see your eye doctor or go the nearest emergency room immediately.

Visit Executive Park Eye Care in Colorado Springs

Eye floaters are actually more common that you may think. Many people notice specks or cobweb-like images moving around in their line of vision, at some point. Some even report experiencing a “snow globe effect” as if they are swatting at many imaginary bugs. Floaters may be an annoyance, but in most cases, they are harmless and merely a part of aging. Here are some answers to questions you may have about eye floaters including warning signs that something may be seriously wrong and requires immediate treatment by an eye care professional.

4 Common Questions Asked About Flashers & Floaters

Q: Why is it that when I wake up during the night and I lay there with my eyes closed I have a white flash like someone turning a white page in a book quite fast?

  • A:Often when we close our eyes we experience entopic phenomenon, which are visual effects of components within our eye. Specific aspects of the eye can produce images that are specific to each individual. Small floaters can be shadows of objects in the retina such as red blood cells, or white blood cells moving through blood vessels. If the floaters and flashes are visible in daylight, and become frequent, you will want to come in for an examination to ensure your eyes are healthy. Flashing lights and floating spots can be an early signs of retinal problems.

Q: I suddenly see random wavy lines, zig-zagging, and/or blotches of missing vision in my vision that last for no more than 30 minutes, should I be concerned?

  • A: You may have just experienced an ophthalmic migraine or a migraine with aura. Usually, these are harmless and indicates some sort of stress. However, it is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning we need to always make sure that isn’t any other ocular concern within the eye itself that may be causing your symptoms. It is a good idea to make an appointment within a few days to have your vision and eye health examined.

Q: Whenever I close my eyes, I see flashes of light in my vision, should I be concerned?

  • A: Flashes of light in your vision could be a very dangerous sign! Something is tugging at your retina and eliciting these flashes of light. Sometimes it could be the vitreous humor pulling at the retina in aging vitreous degeneration, but sometimes it could mean a dangerous retinal tear or detachment. Detachments need to be treated within 24 hours for the best prognosis in preventing permanent vision loss.

Q: I have “spots” floating around in my eye. Should I be worried?

  • A: Spots and floaters are usually harmless. However, in some cases it can be a sign of a retinal detachment or bleeding. Anyone experiencing symptoms of flashing lights and flashing spots should contact our office immediately for a detailed eye exam.

What are eye floaters?

Eye floaters are collagen deposits inside the vitreous humor that fills the space between the lens and retina of your eye. As you age, the vitreous, which is made up of this gel-like protein substance, begins to dissolve and liquefy, creating a more watery consistency. Floaters appear when the collagen fibrils and vitreous membrane become disturbed and go into your line of sight. A posterior vitreous detachment is a common age related change that causes a sudden large floater to occur. Floaters can range in size, shape and consistency and are often more visible when looking at a white screen or clear blue sky.

What is the vitreous?

The vitreous functions to maintain the round shape of your eyeball. It assists with light refraction and acts as a shock absorber for the retina.

How do floaters develop?

As mentioned above, aging of the vitreous can cause it to liquefy, shrink and become stringy or strand-like. As the vitreous is normally transparent, when strands develop they cast a shadow on your retina, which in turn causes floaters to appear in your vision.

What will I see if I have floaters?

Eye floaters can appear in your vision as threads, fragments of cobwebs or spots which float slowly in front of your eyes. You’ll also notice that these specks never seem to stay still when you try to focus on them. Floaters and spots create the impression that they are drifting and they seem to move when your eye moves.

Who is at risk for developing floaters?

Floaters are quite common particularly in individuals that are elderly, diabetic, near-sighted or anyone who has had cataract surgery.

Are floaters dangerous and do they need treatment?

In many cases, floaters are simply an annoyance and can be left alone. Sometimes they will improve over time. In some cases though, floaters can be so distracting that they can block vision and consequently interfere with daily activities and functioning. If you experience a sudden onset of floaters, if they are accompanied by flashes of light or vision loss, if you have pain or you have just experienced eye surgery or trauma, floaters could indicate a serious eye problem that requires immediate medical attention. There are a number of eye disorders associated with eye floaters including retinal detachment, retinal tear, vitreous bleeding, vitreous and retinal inflammation or eye tumors, all of which require medical treatment to avoid vision loss. If you have sudden onset of new floaters, do not wait to book an appointment with your eye doctor to confirm if the floaters are benign or need immediate surgical treatment.

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Floaters In Eyes: Danger Lies In The Numbers

Home › Floaters In Eyes

All of us have floaters in eyes….
Have you ever noticed seeing small dark spots or shadowy speckles in front of your eyes that seem to move as your eyes do, they are called “eye floaters”.

They are particularly noticeable when looking at blank space or an open monochromatic space such as blue sky and white wall.

You can also see them when you stare into the darkness, having your eyes closed under bright light.

Floaters in eyes appear in many forms – tiny spots, flecks, lines and “cobwebs”.

As they exist in the eye, they “float” with the movement of your eyes.

What Causes Eye Floaters?

Our eyes are filled up with a gel-like fluid called the vitreous.

When we are born the vitreous has a thorough gel-like consistency.

But as we age, the vitreous becomes more watery and some of the undissolved gel come together and forms strands and clumps.

Small flecks of protein fiber or other material that were trapped in the vitreous when your eye was formed can also cause floaters.

This is the reason that when you try to look at the floaters, they never seemed to stay still.

Being suspended in the vitreous humor, they move with your eyes as you attempt to locate them.

These floaters float around and sometimes move close to the retina.

When bright light shines through your eyes towards the retina, shadows are cast as light is partially blocked by these floaters.

Floaters in eyes may also result from eye surgery, excessive rubbing of eye and eye disease.

In short, any damage to the eye that causes material to enter the vitreous can result in floaters.

Is Having Floaters In Eyes Bad?

Even though they may be a nuisance for some, floaters are natural byproducts of our eyes’ aging process.

They are typically harmless.

However, if you notice large amount of floaters suddenly, sometimes accompanied with flashes of light in your vision, consult your eye doctor immediately.
Large amount of floaters may indicate some type of retinal inflammatory condition while floaters accompanied with flashes of light could indicate a retinal detachment.

If left untreated, a retinal detachment could lead to permanent vision damage within two to three days.
A study in 2009 reported that 1 out of 7 people who experienced sudden increase of floaters and flashes will have retinal tear or detachment.

Treatment For Eye Floaters

Unless your vision is seriously hampered, treatment for eye floaters is not needed.
You can “move” away the floaters by looking away quickly (moving the gel) and get back to what you were viewing.

Many will fade over time and become less bothersome.

Interesting Fact:

  • Like the blood vessels in the eye, if the eye floaters stay stationary instead of floating around, your brain would automatically tune them out and you’d never consciously see them.
  • The shape and size of individual floaters typically stays the same throughout your lifetime.

If the floaters in eyes obstruct your vision too much, a surgical procedure called vitrectomy can be performed to remove the vitreous together with the floating debris entirely from your eye and replace it with a saline liquid.
This operation carries high risks as it may result in severe eye complications such as retinal tear, retinal detachment and cataracts.
The other more natural way that you can do is add antioxidants to your diet.

They help to preserve the integrity of the vitreous by reducing free radicals.

As it is quite difficult to get sufficient nutrients in our dietary habits today, consider taking eye vitamins instead.

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How to Get Rid of Eye Floaters

While some eye diseases can’t be prevented, there are some general tips to protect your vision and maintain your eye health.

1. Receive a comprehensive eye exam

Some people wait until they notice a problem with their vision to receive an eye exam. However, it’s essential for your eye health to visit an eye doctor, ophthalmologist, or optometrist every two years. This is especially so if you’re 65 years old and older.

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), you should receive a baseline eye exam at age 40 even if you don’t have any vision problems. It can rule out or identify early signs of eye disease.

If you’re predisposed to eye disease or risk factors such as high blood pressure or diabetes, the AAO recommends an eye screening at an earlier age.

2. Maintain a healthy diet

A healthy diet is essential for your eye health. Nutrients found in vegetables and proteins — such as lutein and omega-3 fatty acids — can help prevent vision problems and reduce your risk of macular degeneration.

Consider incorporating leafy greens, salmon, and citrus fruits into your diet. Not only can these foods improve your vision, they can also reduce your risk of developing vision disorders.

3. Drink more water

Water is essential for human health, and not just for hydration. Drinking water can also help flush out harmful toxins and debris from your body. Eye floaters can form as a result of toxin buildup. Increasing your water intake can help your body feel better and improve your eye health.

4. Wear protective eyewear

If you’re physically active or play sports, consider wearing protective eyewear to protect against injury. Eye protection while repairing your home, gardening, or performing household duties can also reduce the risk of dirt and debris affecting your vision.

5. Rest your eyes

If you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen, your eyes may weaken or become strained over time. Practice the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a break while working at your computer. Every 20 minutes, look at something that’s at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

What Causes Them?

Most floaters are small flecks of a protein called collagen. They’re part of a gel-like substance in the back of your eye called the vitreous.

As you age, the protein fibers that make up the vitreous shrink down to little shreds that clump together. The shadows they cast on your retina are floaters. If you see a flash, it’s because the vitreous has pulled away from the retina. If the floaters are new or dramatically changed or you suddenly start seeing flashes, see your eye doctor ASAP.

These changes can happen at any age, but usually occur between 50 and 75. You’re more likely to have them if you’re nearsighted or have had cataract surgery.

It’s rare, but floaters can also result from:

  • Eye disease
  • Eye injury
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Crystal-like deposits that form in the vitreous
  • Eye tumors

Serious eye disorders associated with floaters include:

  • Detached retina
  • Torn retina
  • Bleeding in your vitreous
  • Inflamed vitreous or retina caused by infections or an autoimmune condition
  • Eye tumors

Something that might resemble a floater is the visual aura that can come with a migraine headache. It could look like what you see when you put your eye to a kaleidoscope. It might even move. It’s different from the floaters and flashbulb type “flashes” that come with other eye problems. This usually lasts a few minutes and may involve the vision in both eyes. But then it completely resolves unless you have another episode.

“Floaters” and flashes are a common sight for many people. Floater is a catchall term for the specks, threads, or cobweb-like images that occasionally drift across the line of vision. Flashes are sparks or strands of light that flicker across the visual field. Both are usually harmless. But they can be a warning sign of trouble in the eye, especially when they suddenly appear or become more plentiful.

A floater is a tiny cluster of cells or fleck of protein lodged in the vitreous humor. This clear, stable gel, which looks like raw egg white, supports and fills the rear two-thirds of the eyeball (see “The inside story”). The vitreous provides a pathway for light coming into the eye through the lens. The vitreous connects to the retina, the patch of light-sensitive cells along the back of the eye that captures images and sends them to the brain via the optic nerve.

What you see isn’t actually the floater itself, but the shadow it casts onto the retina. Floaters move as your eyes move. They appear to zoom away when you try to look directly at them, and drift slowly when your eyes stop moving.

The vitreous slowly shrinks with age, causing it to become a bit stringy. The strands cast shadows on the retina, causing floaters. About one-quarter of people have some vitreous shrinkage with floaters by their 60s; that rises to about two-thirds of 80-year-olds. Floaters also appear more often in people who are nearsighted, those who have had cataract surgery or a previous eye injury, and those with diabetes. Although most people tolerate floaters just fine, others feel that floaters affect their vision and disrupt their ability to read.

Flashes occur when the vitreous gel bumps, rubs, or tugs against the retina. Like floaters, flashes are generally harmless and require no treatment.

Trouble ahead

Sometimes floaters and flashes signal a condition that can lead to vision loss.

“A new onset of floaters may herald retinal disease,” said Dr. Jeffrey Heier, director of the retina service at Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston and clinical instructor in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

The shrinking vitreous can tug on the retina and pull away from it. This event, called a posterior vitreous detachment, is common, and usually doesn’t threaten vision. In about one in six people, a posterior vitreous detachment causes the retina to tear. Fluid from inside the eye can then seep through the tear and separate the retina from the tissues that nourish it. This separation, called retinal detachment, can lead to permanent vision loss.

Retinal tears and detachments are painless. Key warning signs include:

  • a new onset of floaters and flashes of light in the eye
  • gradual shading of vision from one side (like a curtain being drawn)
  • rapid decline in sharp, central vision. This occurs when the macula — the area of the retina responsible for central vision — detaches.

Laser photocoagulation is usually done in a doctor’s office. The ophthalmologist uses a laser to make a series of tiny burns around the retinal tear. This creates a barrier of scar tissue that stops the tear from getting bigger.

If you experience any of these warning signs, call your doctor right away. You will need to see an ophthalmologist for an eye exam as soon as possible. If a tear is detected early, treatment can prevent the retina from detaching. Tears can be treated several ways. Pinpoints of laser light can be used to fuse the retina to the back wall of the eye (see “Laser photocoagulation”). Extreme cold, a procedure called cryopexy, does much the same thing.

Cold and laser light can also be paired with the injection of a gas bubble into the eye (pneumatic retinopexy) to repair a detached retina. Two operations, scleral buckling and vitrectomy, can also be used to reattach a retina.

Living with floaters

If your floaters aren’t a sign of retinal damage, they may disappear, become less noticeable, or stay and become irritating. Some clinicians perform and promote laser treatment for benign floaters, but this approach hasn’t been carefully studied in a clinical trial, says Dr. Heier. Floaters can be removed, but for most people the risk to vision from the surgery is greater than the problem posed by the floater. If floaters become a nuisance, Dr. Heier recommends this trick in The Aging Eye, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School for which he is a medical editor: move your eyes up and down, or left and right. That can shift the floater and provide temporary relief.

What to know about eye floaters

Retinal detachment

Although some floaters in the eye may be a normal part of the aging process, experiencing a sudden increase of floaters in the eye may be a sign of another issue, such as retinal detachment.

When retinal detachment occurs, it is not uncommon for people to experience other symptoms along with eye floaters. They may experience flashes of light that are not there, especially in the side of their fields of vision. They may also experience a loss of vision in the sides of their eyes.

Retinal detachment is serious and may lead to blindness without treatment. Anyone who notices a sudden and noticeable increase in floaters, along with other symptoms, should see an eye doctor immediately.

Other causes

There are also more serious causes of floaters in the eye, including:

  • inflammation in the eye
  • infection
  • tearing or trauma in the retina
  • traumatic injury in the eye
  • diabetic retinopathy
  • hemorrhaging
  • eye tumors

Anyone who notices a sudden increase in eye floaters should see an eye doctor to obtain a complete diagnosis.

Last summer, David, 24, was cycling through his hometown when what looked like a giant, magnified tapeworm appeared in his central vision, against the blue sky. It was accompanied by strange shadows, which looked to him like fast-moving mosquitoes, dark smudges and lines. Despite their appearance, these were not parasites. David had developed severe vitreous opacities, otherwise known as eye floaters.

“Eye floaters are caused by small particles of collagen within the vitreous gel at the back of the eye,” explains consultant ophthalmologist and cataract and vitreoretinal surgeon Niall Patton.” become visible to the patient as they cast a shadow over the retina, particularly as they move the eye.”

Eye floaters are often a normal part of ageing and are usually a nuisance rather than a chronic condition. But, emphasises Patton: “In a small minority of patients, for reasons we don’t fully understand, these floaters cause severe symptoms and can significantly affect patients’ quality of life.”

“At first I didn’t look at the floaters too much – I thought this would just go away,” says David. When after two weeks the floaters worsened, he saw his optometrist, who told him he would just have to learn to live with them. “I became really depressed. I work a lot in front of the computer and it’s a nightmare since they are even more apparent . I’m seriously considering changing career because of the floaters.”

Should you worry about your eye floaters?

Floater severity is subjective.

“When a patient comes to you specifically enquiring about treatment options for their floaters, in general they must already be sufficiently troubled by them,” Patton reveals.

But if your floaters are new or have changed suddenly, it’s important to see an optometrist or ophthalmologist to rule out rare but sight-threatening issues, including retinal detachment and retinal tears.

How to live with floaters

Learn to adapt

Optometrists often say you will get used to eye floaters, which in many cases is true. Though initially alarming, when patients realise they are not sight-threatening, many are able to eventually forget their existence.

Rule out or treat underlying anxiety

Studies have shown that psychological distress is more common among those with eye floaters. Patients often become anxious as a consequence of the condition – and that anxiety increases the perception of floaters.

Stress is also thought to increase the occurrence of eye problems. It can, therefore, be worth exploring ways of reducing your overall anxiety and stress levels through mindfulness and self-care. Speak with your GP to discuss your options. By treating anxiety, floaters will not disappear. But it may help you see past them.

Managing your environment

Typically, holiday destinations like beaches, coastal towns, and big open spaces will be more stress-inducing for floater-sufferers. Bright spaces, white skies and minimalist decor suddenly become major sources of visual anxiety.

Severe eye floater sufferers tend to find more solace in places with more visual distractions, like forests, or medieval towns with narrow cobbled streets. Interiors with darker tones and more paintings or visual distractions usually alleviate symptoms.

It’s harder to control external environments, but many people feel more comfortable wearing sunglasses or tinted glasses, through which eye floaters are often less noticeable.

How to manage your symptoms at work

Bright office lights and clinical white walls are particularly problematic for those whose vision is clouded by vitreous opacities, and it can be distressing working on a computer.

It’s important to communicate to your employer when you need adjustments. No one will know you are struggling until you tell them. Perhaps board meetings can be held in a darker room, or you can get an app to turn down the brightness of your monitor; maybe your boss will let you work some days from home.

Treatment

“There are solutions out there for floaters, and patients should never despair,” says Patton. “They should also take their time in making any decision regarding how to manage their floaters.”

Depending on the impact the condition has on life quality, some people will consider YAG laser or vitrectomy surgery. Both come with their respective risks, and it’s important to be well-informed of these before rushing into treatment.

YAG laser (vitreolysis)

A non-surgical approach to treating eye floaters, vitreolysis appeals to patients because it’s less invasive than a vitrectomy, and can be carried out in a doctor’s office. It entails lasering large floaters, therefore reducing them in size so they are less obstructive.

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) occurs when the eye’s vitreous humour (the clear fluid in the eyeball) peels away from the retina entirely, often as a result of ageing. The condition causes a much larger, ring-shaped floater (the Weiss ring).

“YAG laser (vitreolysis) can be particularly effective in patients when they have a PVD and have an evident ‘Weiss ring’ as the cause of their symptoms,” says Patton.

“Whilst in my experience these patients are a small percentage of the overall ‘severe floaters’ population, YAG laser may improve symptoms in 50% of this group. But it’s important to know that approximately 25% of patients experience either no improvement, or worse symptoms following the laser.”

Vitrectomy

A vitrectomy operation involves making small incisions in the white of the eye. The vitrous humour is then removed and replaced with saline solution. A routine vitrectomy lasts approximately 30-60 minutes and can be performed under local or general anaesthetic. Most patients are able to return to work within two weeks.

“Surgical vitrectomy, whilst very successful at removing or significantly alleviating floater symptoms, carries a risk,” cautions Patton, though. “One should only consider undertaking that risk if you feel your quality of life is significantly affected.”

Risks of the operation include infection, inflammation, bleeding and bruising around the eye. Patton also points out that many patients develop a cataract following this type of surgery. The cataract may be removed during the operation or afterwards as a separate procedure.

Before committing to a vitrectomy, it’s important to discuss your particular situation with a surgeon and weigh up the risks. But despite the risks associated with vitrectomy, patient satisfaction following the procedure is generally high.

  • What are eye floaters?
  • Are they serious?
  • When should I start to get worried?
  • What causes loss of vision?

What are eye floaters?

Everyone gets occasional specks in front of their eyes. These specks are known as floaters and they are especially common when looking directly at a light background, or when feeling light-headed.

What causes floaters?

Floaters are little specks of debris floating through the vitreous fluid in the eyeball. Sometimes people may momentarily confuse them with dust or tiny insects floating across in front of the eye. However, they are within the eyeball and are not eliminated by rubbing the front of the eye.

‘Floaters occur within the vitreous fluid of the eyeball’.

Are they serious?

Under normal circumstances, eye floaters are absolutely nothing to worry about. Everyone experiences them from time to time and they cause no ill effects.

When should I start to get worried?

Specks in front of the eyes are normally clearly visible when looking into a light background. However, if they start becoming visible in every background, suddenly increase in number and are accompanied by any loss of vision, it is vital that immediate medical advice is sought. This could be an early sign of retinal detachment.

If the retina has become detached or has a hole in it, you will begin to experience flashing lights before your eyes and you will also be aware of numerous floaters. These two symptoms will be accompanied by a loss of vision, so urgent medical advice is necessary. Surgery is required to seal any holes in the retina, or to re-attach the retina to the back of the eyeball.

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