Flashes and Floaters

Flashes and Floaters: When to See a Specialist

Eye floaters and flashes are caused by the age-related shrinking in the vitreous (a jelly-like substance) that fills the back of the eye. Floaters will look like small floating spots, while flashes can look like bright flashes of light. 

Floaters are quite common in patients over the age of 50, and typically come and go. However, there are some situations in which the presence of floaters indicate a more serious eye condition.

What Causes Floaters?

Floaters are a common part of the natural aging process and can occur in one or both of the eyes. The vitreous becomes more liquid as a person ages; allowing microscopic fibers to clump together and cast shadows (floaters) on the retina. The diagram gives a great visual of what floaters look like behind the scenes. As floaters move around the eye, they pass in front of the macula, which causes the presence of a debris-like subject in the field of vision.

Floaters Diagram

Source: Mayo Clinic

Floaters often will take the appearance of:

  • Squiggly lines
  • Small shadowy shapes
  • Dark spots

What Causes Flashes?

Flashes occur when the vitreous gel pulls on the underlying retinal tissues; causing a flash of light. Eye flashes occur with the natural aging process, and is more common in those who experience migraines as well. 

Because flashes cause pulling on the retina, it can lead to retinal tears or detachments if not treated.

When Floaters and Flashes Matter

Floaters are relatively common and not usually a cause for concern. However, in some cases, new floaters can lead to more serious eye conditions, like retinal tears or detachments. 

Here are three significant changes you should look for in regard to your eyes’ condition:

  • A significant number of floaters appearing suddenly 
  • Experiencing bright flashes of light
  • Losing your peripheral vision 

When accompanied by flashes of light, floaters raise a cause to see an ophthalmologist. While a few floaters are generally nothing to be concerned about, if you experience a sudden increase in: floaters, flashes of bright lights, loss of peripheral vision, or other eye pain, don’t delay seeing a specialist.

Reach out today if you would like to schedule an appointment with us or learn more about eye flashes and floaters. Dr. Pandya services the Dallas Fort Worth community with offices in both Plano and Waxahachie, Texas.