Floaters and Flashes
Floaters and flashes of light are common eye symptoms that may or may not indicate a serious vision problem. Many people describe floaters as specks, clouds or cobwebs floating around in their central or side vision, and describe flashes as brief, bright spots of light or seeing stars.
Floaters are small particles of protein or other matter trapped within the jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye, called the vitreous humor. These can form at birth or as the vitreous begins to deteriorate as part of the aging process. Certain eye diseases or injury can cause floaters to appear. Floaters are very common in individuals who are nearsighted or have undergone eye surgery.
Flashes of light occur when the vitreous humor thickens and begins to tug on the retina causing small tears or holes. Flashes of light that appear in waves or as jagged lines in one or both eyes lasting as long as 20 minutes are caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain, known as an ocular migraine.
Floaters appear as specks of various shapes and sizes, as individual spots or threadlike strands. Most floaters are not harmful and rarely limit the vision. However, a sudden increase in floaters can indicate a serious vision problem.
The onset of new flashes of light can be an indicator of serious vision threatening problems such as the presence of a retinal tear or the beginning of a retinal detachment. The eye should then be checked immediately.
The eye doctors at the Shammas Eye Medical Center routinely check the retina in the presence of vitreous floaters or flashes of light. If a retinal tear is found, our eye surgeons will seal it with laser to prevent any additional damage.