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Flashes and Floaters

Diagram of flashes and floaters

Flashes and floaters are one of the most common problems patients have when they visit a retina specialist.  Flashes and floaters can appear in one or both eyes.  Floaters can be mild or visually significant.  Flashes and floaters can be benign or a symptom of a more serious retina condition.    If you experience flashes and floaters accompanied by a loss of vision; a curtain or a veil in the field in your vision is an ocular emergency.  

If you experience flashes and floaters you should see your retina specialist for a dilated eye exam.

Floaters are a part of the natural aging process, as we age the vitreous shrinks and the gel-like substance becomes stringlike and the strands cast shadows that you may notice as specks or little “cobwebs” that float in and out of your field of vision, these are floaters. 

Most middle-aged adults have floaters and learn to ignore them. Floaters usually are not noticed until they become numerous or more prominent in the central field of vision.  Floaters are most visible when you are outside, in bright light, while looking at the sky, or a white sheet of paper. 

Flashes can occur for several reasons and are often alarming to a person who experiences flashes. Flashes can be caused by migraines, trauma, and from the vitreous tugging on the retina from the normal aging process of the vitreous. 

While flashes caused by the tugging on the retina is often normal and harmless, if the flashing is frequent, persistent, or has come on suddenly, it is more of a concern and you should schedule an examination with your retina specialists.  

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