Floaters & Flashes

Floaters are small clumps of cells that appear as specks or clouds that move across your field of vision. Although it seems as if they’re moving in front of your eye, these floaters are actually inside the gel-like fluid of your eye, and the dots, clouds, lines, or cobwebs that you see are merely their shadows cast onto your retina.

Both floaters and flashes, which are flashes of light that can last 10-20 minutes, appear when the vitreous gel in your eyeball pulls on the retina. As you age, the vitreous gel shrinks, leading to a greater occurrence of floaters and flashes. Sometimes when the gel pulls away from the eye, it causes a tear to the retina, which in turn can lead to bleeding inside the eye. If the retinal tear isn’t treated, the retina may detach from the eye, which can only be treated with an immediate laser procedure or surgery. Retinal detachments that remain untreated lead to blindness.

Not all floaters and flashes are serious, though. Most people experience harmless floaters and flashes occasionally – in fact, 7 out of 10 people will experience floaters and flashes at some point in their lives. But if they start occurring suddenly, appear more frequently, or if there is a rapid increase in the number of floaters, it may be an indication that you have a serious eye problem. The risk can be great, so it’s important that you speak with a professional if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.