Floaters are an extremely common and harmless occurrence, observed particularly against a bright background, as little black specs or spots that seem to float around within your visual field.
Flashes refer to the occasional flashes of light observed in the far periphery or corner of your vision, most often on extreme gaze.
Neither are of any great significance unless they occur in very large and increased numbers. If this is the case, they could be the sign of a retinal detachment, and you are advised to seek urgent advice.
Floaters have the following features:
Flashes have the following features:
Flashes and floaters are common among people over the age of 65 and those who are short sighted.
As we get older the ball of jelly inside our eyes (the vitreous humour) changes - it shrinks and pulls away from the retina, creating small gaps which cast shadows onto the retina manifesting themselves as floaters. Sometimes the vitreous humour can pull on the retina itself, physically stimulating the retina, usually leading to flashes.
Sometimes this pulling process can cause the retina to rip or tear. This is what causes the vast increase in floaters and sometimes flashes and can be the start of a retinal detachment and needs urgent attention.
Flashes and floaters can sometimes be caused by other eye diseases.
Flashes and floaters are harmless and, while irritating, no treatment is usually needed. They should always be monitored, mentioned and discussed with an Optometrist during an eye examination. In many cases they will get less noticeable on their own as the brain adjusts to the changes in the eyes.
However, you should consult your Optometrist immediately if you experience:
The above could be signs of a more serious issue such as a retinal detachment or a retinal tear and medical assistance should be sought immediately.
If you notice flashes or floaters you should discuss it with your Optometrist, who will check the back of your eye, the vitreous humour and your peripheral fields of vision. They may need to use dilating eye drops to get a better view of the retina. If they suspect that there may be a more serious cause then they will refer you to the hospital.
We recommend you have an Eye Test at least every two years, regardless of symptoms and/or conditions.
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