Flashes and floaters are part of a group of sensations, perceptions, or images of things that appear to be happening in front of the eye.
Though appearing as more or less opaque specks or threads moving around on the eye’s surface, floaters are actually inside the eye. Floaters are made up of various inner eye materials such as vitreous strands, white blood cell deposits, fluid pockets, and others. While attention–getting and mildly bothersome at first, floaters sometimes fade away and become less noticeable. While often harmless, the sudden onset of new, many, and larger–size floaters may indicate a serious condition and you should see your ophthalmologist immediately.
Flashes appear as sudden white streaks of light within the eye. Flashes, particularly if accompanied by a noticeable reduction in vision (often described as cloud–like or like a curtain), can be more serious and is sometimes associated with a retinal tear or pending retinal detachment.
Floaters and flashes can occur at any age, but are usually associated with older people. In general, floaters do not require any special treatment, unless they become particularly bothersome or a sudden onset or increase of new floaters or flashes occurs. If recommended, various treatment options are available to mitigate obstructions or repair torn retinal tissue.
Flashes and floaters can be more often a nuisance than an actual cause for alarm. However, as mentioned, the sudden onset of new, many, and larger–size floaters may indicate a serious condition and you should see your ophthalmologist immediately. Should a serious condition be developing, such as a tearing or detaching retina, a timely surgical repair can take care of the problem.
In general, floaters do not require treatment and usually diminish over time. Any treatment that is warranted is directed to the underling cause of the flashes or floaters.