top of page

Floaters and Flashes


What are floaters?


Floaters look like small specks, dots, debris, or cobwebs in your vision. They seem to “float” in your vision. Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells in the vitreous that fills the cavity of your eye. What you are actually seeing is the shadow these clumps cast onto your retina.


As we age, our vitreous changes and clumps or strands can develop. If the vitreous pulls away from the back of the eye, it is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which is a normal process as the eye ages. Floaters usually happen with a PVD develops. They are not serious, and the tend to fade as time goes on. They seldom need treatment or surgery.


Your are more prone to the development of floaters if you:

  • are nearsighted

  • have had cataract surgery

  • have had inflammation inside the eye


What are flashes?


Flashes look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vison. Flashing can occur when the vitreous pulls on your retina.


As people age, it is common to see flashes occasionally.


When floaters and flashes are more serious


Most floaters and flashes are not a problem. However, there are times when this can indicate a more serious condition. You should call your ophthalmologist when:

  • you notice a substantial increase in the number of floaters

  • lots of flashing

  • a shadow or curtain in your peripheral vision


Click on the following link to the American Academy of Ophthalmology EyeSmart page for more information:




(*the above information was adapted from the handout "Floaters and Flashes, Patient Education”, provided by the American Academy of Ophthalmology)


bottom of page