Flashes and Floaters

What are flashes?

Flashers are brief sensations or the appearance of bright lights at the edge of vision caused by tension between the vitreous gel and the retina. As the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, the retina becomes stimulated, sending signals to the brain that are interpreted as flashes of light. As we age, it is more common to experience flashes. However, if you notice the sudden appearance of light flashes you should see your ophthalmologist immediately.

What are floaters?

As we age, the vitreous gel thickens and pulls away from the retina, causing floaters that appear like small specs or clouds moving in front of your vision. They are actually small clumps of cells, pigments, or gel matrix that float inside the vitreous of the eye which cast shadows on the retina, and tend to move when you try to look at them. This can sometimes cause a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters.

Generally, floaters are not treated and will settle out of vision within weeks or months. Those that do not clear, or are caused by hemmorage, may be removed surgically. If you experience a sudden new or more noticeable floater, contact your doctor right away as this may be an indication of a more serious problem.

Are flashes and floaters normal?

Flashes and floaters are considered a normal consequence of aging, and tend to become less noticeable with time. However, patients should always be examined at the onset of these symptoms, as they can be a warning sign of more serious conditions, such as posterior vitreous detachment, retinal tear, or retinal detachment.

Posterior vitreous detachment is most common in people who:

  • are nearsighted
  • have undergone cataract surgery
  • have had a YAG laser surgery
  • have had inflammation inside the eye

A tear in the retina is always a serious condition, if left untreated can lead to a retinal detachment. You should contact your doctor immediately if you notice:

  • even one sudden new floater
  • you experience sudden flashes of light

Schedule a consultation

If you would like more information about flashes and floaters, contact our office today! Call (800) 676-5050 to schedule a consultation with one of our eye care specialists.