Flashes / Floaters Investigations

What are Floaters

Floaters appear as small dots, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision. Oftentimes, people attempt to swat these objects away believing they are some time of bug flying around them. While they seem to be in front of your eye, they are floating inside your eye. Floaters are tiny clumps of the gel that fills are eyes, otherwise called vitreous. 

Patient’s usually notice floaters more when looking at something plain, like a blank wall or a blue sky. 

As we age, our vitreous starts to thicken or shrink. If the vitreous pulls away from the back of the eye, it is called posterior vitreous detachment. Floaters usually happen with posterior vitreous detachment. This process alone is not harmful to the eye, but it can be a visual nuisance. There are instances where the development of new floaters occur as a result of a new retinal tear or detachment, which is why anyone with new floaters should have a full eye exam promptly. 

What are Flashes?

Flashes of light are spots of light that you see in your field of vision. These may appear similar to "shooting stars" or "streaks of light." These flashes come from inside your eye, not anything outside of your eye. Most occur when the vitreous gel inside the eye condenses and pulls on the retina of the eye. Flashes of light can also happen if you’re hit in the eye or rub your eyes too hard.

Flashes of light usually appear and then fade quickly. In contrast, bright spots, lines or patches that appear and stay in place for a period of time may be migraine aura or a symptom of another condition. Migraine aura may look like shimmering jagged lines or appear wavy, like heat waves. Migraine aura can appear even if you do not get any headache.

If you suddenly start seeing repeated flashes of light, this could be a serious problem, especially if you also have cloudy floaters or vision changes. You should call our office right away if:

  • You suddenly start seeing flashes when you haven’t before.

  • You have a sudden increase in flashes of light.

  • You see flashes of light along with cloudiness or dark spots in your vision.

  • You see a dark area or ‘curtain’ across your vision.

  • You see flashes of light after being hit in the eye or face.

Suddenly seeing new floaters and flashes could mean your retina has torn or detached. This is a very serious condition that needs to be diagnosed right away in order to preserve vision. Call our office immediately to schedule an appointment.