Floaters and Flashes

Floaters look like small specks, dots, circles, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision. They originate from a gel like substance that fills the inside of the eyeball behind the lens called vitreous. As we age, our vitreous gel starts to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands in it that appear as small, occasional floaters. These floaters are most notable in bright light. 

If the vitreous gel collapses and completely pulls away from the back of the eye, it is called posterior vitreous detachment ( PVD) . More sudden onset of larger floaters usually happen with posterior vitreous detachment. It can also be associated with flashes of light or lightning streaks in your field of vision. Flashes happen when the vitreous rubs or pulls on your retina.

You are more likely to get floaters and PVD if you:


You will need a dilated eye exam if you have new onset of or changes in floater size or quantity or if you see flashes of light. You need a dilated exam right away if 

  • a shadow appears in your peripheral (side) vision

  • a gray curtain covers part of your vision


The reason for such exam is to rule out complications such as retinal tears or detachment that can be caused by vitreous gel pulling on your retina.

Please call now to schedule an appointment to be evaluated for flashes or floaters.

Most of these floaters are benign and will become less noticeable as time passes. They are not serious, and they tend to fade or go away over time. Severe persistent floaters can be removed by laser or surgery, but this is seldom necessary.

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