Floaters and Flashes
July 6, 2020 | by Karen E. Bhaskar MD

What are eye floaters?

Floaters are opacities within the clear gel in the center of the eye called the vitreous. Floaters may appear as dark specks, clouds, or threads moving through patient’s field of vision.

What are flashes?

Flashes appear as bursts of light, stars, or streaks in your field of sight that aren’t really there.

What causes floaters and flashes?

The most common and harmless floaters and flashes appear after a normal aging process of the eye, called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). PVD is when the vitreous liquefies and pulls away from the retina, the light-sensing layer of the eye, causing you to see flashes of light. The tissue attachment points of the vitreous are then floating in the gel causing you to see floaters. Floaters block light getting to the retina, so you are seeing a shadow.

PVD usually happens around the age of 60, but can occur sooner if you are nearsighted or after eye surgery.

When should you see an ophthalmologist for flashes and floaters?

If you experience new and/or increasing flashes of light or floaters in your vision, you should be evaluated by your eye care provider within 24 to 48 hours.

What can a patient expect during a flashes and floater evaluation?

Flashes and/or floaters that are caused by a PVD without a retinal tear or detachment don’t require treatment. If you are evaluated soon after the flashes and floaters began, another exam is usually scheduled to ensure you do not develop a retinal problem within the next few weeks.

Flashes and/or floaters caused by a retinal tear or detachment require prompt treatment by a retinal specialist usually with a laser or sometimes surgery.

For more information, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology information page on flashes and floaters here. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bhaskar, call 206.860.4550.