Eye floaters and flashes - symptoms, causes & treatments Eye floaters and flashes - symptoms, causes & treatments
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Eye Floaters and Flashes

Floaters and spots in your vision are usually harmless, but if they occur suddenly, you should seek medical attention.

Many people see floaters or black spots in their vision. If you have had eye floaters for some time, there is generally no need to worry. But if you encounter a sudden increase in floaters, or begin to see flashes in your vision, you should see an eye specialist straight away.

Seeing floaters or spots in your vision

Symptoms

Most people who experience floaters can see feint black or grey areas in their vision. Floaters come in all shapes and sizes, such as dots, specs, clouds or lines. You might only notice them when looking at plain, light surface, such as a blank wall or clear sky. Eye floaters can seem to be stationary, or they may appear to ‘float’ around your field of vision.

Causes of eye floaters

Floaters are caused by an irregularity in the vitreous ‘gel’ that fills your eye. The irregularity casts a shadow onto your retina, blocking small areas of your vision, which you perceive as floaters.

Floaters occur naturally as the vitreous gel within your eye thickens or shrinks with age, causing clumps or strands to form. In most cases, floaters are completely harmless, if a little irritating.

In some cases, the shrinking vitreous gel can pull on the retina (the focusing surface at the back of your eye). If this occurs, it can cause a macular hole or even detach the retina. This is usually accompanied by a sudden increase in floaters, and sometimes flashes in your vision as well. If you encounter any of these symptoms, you should see an eye specialist immediately.

Seeing flashes in your vision

Symptoms

Flashing lights or streaks within your vision are usually most noticeable at night, but you may also see them during the day. The sensation is very similar to ‘seeing stars’ after a knock to the head.

Causes of flashes in your vision

As the vitreous ‘gel’ within your eye shrinks, it may pull on the retina (the focusing surface at the back of your eye). If the retina is peeled away from the back of the eye, it can cause flashes of light in your vision to occur.

A retinal tear or detached retina is a serious and potentially sight-threatening condition. It’s therefore essential to seek medical attention as quickly as possible if you encounter flashes in your vision, particularly if they are accompanied by a sudden increase in floaters.

Treatment for eye floaters and flashes

Most floaters are harmless, and don’t require any treatment. However, if you suffer from floaters that seriously affect your vision, they can often be removed with a vitrectomy.

Retinal detachment, on the other hand, is a serious condition, and retinal detachment surgery should be carried out as a matter of urgency by a skilled eye surgeon. If you suffer from flashes in your vision, or a sudden increase in floaters, call Eye Institute straight away on 0800 39 35 27 for an urgent appointment with one of our eye doctors.

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