Flashes & Floaters

What are floaters

Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. While these objects look like they are in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside it. They often occur when something like a posterior vitreous detachment when the jelly in the eye comes away from the retina due to age or trauma. These floaters are not serious and tend to fade and become less noticeable over time. Severe floaters can be surgically removed, but this has its own risks which your eye care professional can discuss with you

What are Flashes

Flashes can look like flashing lights or lightning in your visual field. Sometimes this can be seen as stars in your vision. These occur when the retina is stimulated by the loose vitreous jelly that occurs during a posterior vitreous detachment.

image source from American Academy of Ophthalmology

When do flashes and floaters become a cause for concern?

The retina can tear if the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the wall of the eye during a posterior vitreous detachment. This sometimes causes a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters.

A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment. You should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible if:

  • Even one new floater appears suddenly
  • You see sudden flashes of light
  • You see a dark shadow or curtain in your vision