Flashes and Floaters
What Are Flashes and Floaters?
Flashes and floaters are abnormalities that may appear in your field of vision and occur more frequently as you age.
Flashes look like flashing lights or streaks of lightning in your field of vision. These can appear periodically for several weeks at a time. Flashes occur when the vitreous pulls or rubs on the retina, usually as part of aging, but it can also happen due to an injury.
Floaters are fragments of protein fiber in the vitreous – the clear, gel-like substance that fills your eye. Floaters can appear as tiny specks, dots, circles, lines, or cobwebs and can seem to be floating in front of you. They are much more noticeable when gazing at a plain object or area, such as the sky or a blank wall. What you see is the shadow this debris casts on your retina.
One of the most common causes of floaters is a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which occurs when the vitreous shrinks due to age and pulls away from the retina. You are more likely to get floaters if you are nearsighted or have had cataract surgery or inflammation in the eye.
Flashes and floaters are not typically serious. However, if you see a bright, unexpected flash of light, red floaters, see a shadow or dark curtain move across your vision, or have eye pain along with floaters, contact the Dean McGee Eye Institute immediately at 405.271.1092 or 800.787.9014. You may be experiencing a retinal tear or detachment that requires immediate medical attention.
Diagnosing Flashes and Floaters
Your ophthalmologist can diagnose flashes and floaters through a dilated comprehensive eye examination.
What are the Treatment Options for Flashes and Floaters?
Mild occurrences of flashes and floaters do not require treatment. More severe cases can be treated with a vitrectomy.