What are flashes and floaters?

Floaters are tiny specks that look like dust in your field of vision. A floater can also be characterized as cobwebs, lines, clouds, or circles. Flashes look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your frame of vision. Floaters occur because tiny clusters of cells or flecks of proteins are lodged in the vitreous humor and form shadows on your retina. Flashes occur when the vitreous gel bumps, rubs, or tugs against the retina.

Why do I have flashes and floaters?

Flashes and floaters are common occurrences that happen more often when people age. This is because they are associated with shrinking vitreous gel, which is the clear liquid inside of the eyeball. As the vitreous shrinks, it can cause shadows from cells lining the back part of the eyeball. When the vitreous gel pulls away, this is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

PVDs are more common in people who are nearsighted, have undergone cataract operations, have had YAG laser surgery of the eye or, have had inflammation inside the eye. PVDs usually do not threaten vision. However, PVDs should be monitor as they can cause the retina to tear. If fluid from inside the eye seeps through the tear and separates the retina from the tissues that nourish it, this may lead to permanent vision loss.

Flashes and floaters may be associated with retinal tears and detachments. If a tear is detected early, treatment via laser photocoagulation or cryopexy can prevent the retina from detaching. If you have noticed any new flashes or floaters or have experienced any of the following warning signs:

  • A burst of new floaters or flashes
  • A shadow in your peripheral vision
  • A gradual shading of vision from one side (like a curtain)
  • A rapid decline in sharp, central vision

Please seek treatment by an ophthalmologist for an eye exam as soon as possible.

Is There Treatment for Floaters and Flashes?

Here at South Bay Retina Dr. Narain is a vitreoretinal specialist who regularly treats floaters and flashers. His treatment begins with a detailed retinal exam to see if your eye condition is caused by a more serious eye problem, such as a retinal tear or detachment. Typically, however, vitreous floaters and flashes are harmless and can be left untreated. Your best solution is to seek treatment by an eye care professional in order to determine your treatment plan.

Please contact us today if you have any questions.