Flashes & Floaters

Seeing flashes of light is a common, sometimes frightening event. Flashes in our vision are most often caused by pressure on the retina, the delicate tissue that lines the eye’s interior. The retina detects images and transmits them to the brain. Vitreous humor is the gelatinous substance that fills the eye, made of water and protein fibers. Floaters are seen when bits of protein move within the vitreous humor. Small specks, bug shapes, or dots are sometimes seen. These are called floaters and are often more noticeable against a bland background like a white wall. Most flashes and floaters occur in healthy or very nearsighted eyes, causing patients to see flashing lights or lightning streaks. It is often just a normal part of aging, but in some cases may be a symptom of more serious problems, such as vitreous detachment or retinal tear.

Serious vision loss can occur if the retina detaches from the eye wall. A tear in the retina is found in about 8% of eyes with posterior vitreous detachment. If this goes untreated, it may lead to a retinal detachment, which is a real threat to vision and must be surgically repaired. If you’re experiencing flashes and floaters, you should contact your doctor immediately so an examination can be performed.