Floaters and Flashes

Floaters and flashes are small imperfections in your vision that seem to drift around. Most people have them and learn to ignore them. However, an increase in the number of floaters or flashes can be a sign of retinal detachment, which requires urgent medical attention.

What Are Floaters and Flashes?

Floaters are specks, spots or wiggly lines that float about in your field of vision. They are more apparent when you are looking at something bright, such as a clear blue sky. Floaters will move as your eyes move, seeming to drift slowly into your field of vision.

Flashes appear like blotches of light, flashing lights or light streaks in your field of vision. Both are common but can be a sign of a greater problem. Your eye doctor will be able to determine whether they are harmless or if further treatment is needed.

Floaters and flashes become more likely to appear with age and are more common in people who have diabetes, nearsightedness or who have had a cataract operation.


Floaters are generally caused by the natural shrinking of the vitreous gel. As you age, the vitreous gel gets thinner and more watery, and tissue debris that was once held firmly inside the gel can move around the eye, casting shadows on the retina.

Flashes are caused by pressure on the retina in the back of the eye.

Both can also be indicators of retinal detachment, a more serious condition that requires medical attention.

Retinal Detachment

The retina, a light-sensitive tissue layer at the back of the eye, can become detached. When it is not treated promptly, it can cause permanent vision loss. Retinal detachment can occur at any age. People who are extremely nearsighted, have had retinal detachment in the other eye, have a family history of retinal detachment, or have other eye disorders or injuries are at a greater risk of retinal detachment.

A sudden or gradual increase in floaters or flashes can be an indicator of retinal detachment.

Retinal detachment is a medical emergency—if you notice an increase in floaters and flashes, seek treatment immediately.

To schedule an appointment or learn more about floaters and flashes, call us at 610-265-1188 or click here.