For most individuals, the cause of eye floaters and flashes in the eyes is age-related. As you age, the vitreous gel can liquefy and separate from the retina. The vitreous is the transparent gel-like substance that fills the inside of your eyeball behind the lens; this can lead to traction and “pull” on the retina. This pulling is often perceived as a flash of light known as “flashes”.

Floaters are small specks or strands in the vitreous gel that move into your field of vision. The floaters present in different shapes very similar to small dots, circles, clouds, lines, and even cobwebs. Floaters move as your eyes move; If you try to look at them directly, they may seem to dart away.

The primary difference between flashes and floaters is that floaters are usually seen during daylight or in lightened areas, whereas flashes are typically noticed at night or in a dark room.

Ways Eye Floaters and Flashes may affect you

Floaters may appear or seem like they are in front of your eyes, but are actually floating on the inside of it. When you see the small dots, circles, cobwebs, etc., in your eyes, what you are actually seeing is the shadows these objects cast on the retina.

Floaters can affect our eyes many different ways. Sometimes a section of the vitreous will pull the fine fibers away from the retina all at once causing many new floaters to appear suddenly. When this happens it is often due to a vitreous detachment. Other times, you may experience a sudden increase in floaters accompanied by light flashes or peripheral vision loss which may be indicative of a retinal detachment.

While occasional chronic stable floaters are usually harmless, the sudden onset of new, many, and larger-size floaters or new onset of flashes, could indicate a serious condition, such as tearing or detaching of the retina, and you should contact your ophthalmologist immediately. A retinal detachment requires surgery and can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated.
The likelihood of experiencing flashes and floaters becomes more common as we grow older because the vitreous gel inside our eyes begin to gradually pull away from the inside surface of the eye.

Eye Floaters and Flashes:  Causes and Risk Factors

  • Aging
  • Recent intraocular surgery
  • Inflammation inside the eyes (also known as uveitis)
  • Posterior vitreous detachments (PVD’s)
  • Post cataract and YAG laser capsulotomy surgery
  • People who are severely nearsighted

As previously mentioned, most floaters and flashes may disappear or become less noticeable over time. However, contact your ophthalmologist immediately should you experience:

  • Rapid decline in vision
  • A gray or gradual shading of vision from one side
  • A new or sudden onset or change in the pattern of floaters and flashes

At Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute, we have a team of ophthalmologists and fellowship trained retinal specialists experienced with the latest techniques available in treating retinal detachments and other issues related to eye floaters and flashes.

Make an appointment with us today to discuss your options (954) 741-5555