Skip to main content

Floaters and Flashes

Flashes and small floating shapes that drift around your vision

Ever noticed those tiny specks drifting around in your vision? Those are floaters – little wanderers that can be annoying but are usually harmless.

Imagine the inside of your eye as a space where a gel called the vitreous helps keep your retina in place and maintains the eye’s shape. In childhood, this gel is thick like egg whites, but as you age, it becomes more watery. Floaters are small lumps of the gel that haven’t fully liquified. As light passes through your eye, these lumps cast shadows creating the illusion of dark shapes floating in your vision. You might notice them more when looking at a white wall or the blue sky, and they tend to move around as your eyes move.

Are Floaters and Flashes serious?

For most people they’re just a minor annoyance. However, a sudden ‘shower’ or ‘cobweb’ of floaters, particularly if light flashes are also noticed, requires immediate attention. The flashes of light are due to the vitreous jelly exerting traction on the retina, causing the impression of a small flash of light, often in the peripheral vision. In this instance, the retina itself may be getting pulled and can tear or detach from the inner surface of the eye.

Floaters and flashes are usually benign, but one in ten patients with these symptoms may have a retinal tear. While rare, retinal tears and detachments are serious and require treatment as soon as possible to prevent vision from being permanently lost.

As for getting rid of floaters, they’re harmless, so it’s generally not worth the risk of surgical treatment. You can try swishing your eyes side to side or flicking them up and down to move the floaters out of the way. Many people have floaters and learn to live with them but you should book an appointment with your optometrist if you have concerns.


Book An Appointment