Flashers and Floaters

What are floaters?

Floaters look like small specks, dots, circles, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision. These may appear suddenly in one or both eyes. While they seem to be in front of your eye, they are floating inside. 

The development of floaters is the result of the natural breakdown of vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the inside of the human eye. As we age, this gel will shrink and pull away from the back of the eye. This process is called a posterior vitreous detachment and may come with a sudden increase in the perceived quantity or size of floaters. 

The development of new floaters can put a person at risk of developing a retinal tear or a retinal detachment. Although rare, these are sight threatening conditions that should be evaluated urgently by an ophthalmologist. 

What are flashes?

Flashes are the perception of light coming from one or both eyes. It can look like lightning streaks in your field of vision. Flashes may be caused by the vitreous pulling on your retina. Some people may notice flashes more easily in a dark room or when they move their eyes suddenly from side to side. If these symptoms occur suddenly and are associated with the development of floaters, we recommend an evaluation by an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.

Flashes and migraines

Sometimes people have light flashes that look like jagged lines that expand over the course of minutes. These can appear in one or both eyes and may last up to 20 minutes. This type of flash may be caused by a migraine and can occur with or without the subsequent development of a headache.