Floaters and Flashing Lights
We get lots of patients asking us about floaters – those small black dots or strands that you sometimes see floating about when you move your eyes. Floaters are very common and usually nothing to worry about, but occasionally they can be a warning sign of something more serious.
Floaters are sometimes associated with flashing lights in the eye and resemble a little sparkle like lightning or fireworks that usually appear in the corner of your vision. Like floaters these can be quite common, especially as you get older.
What causes flashes and floaters?
Your eyes contain a gel-like substance called vitreous. When you’re young, the vitreous is attached to your retina at the back of your eye but as you get older, the vitreous can change in quality, becoming more liquid and detaching from the retina. This is known as vitreous detachment and may be when you see that flash of light.
The changes in the vitreous as you age are also what usually causes floaters. The vitreous gel can sometimes separate, with parts becoming wavy strands of collagen. These fibres appear to float in your eye, moving away if you try to focus on them.
Floaters can appear at any age, and most of the time, the brain will adjust and accommodate the floaters, so you stop noticing them.
Rarely, flashes and floaters can be a sign of imminent retinal detachment. This is where a vitreous detachment causes the retina to tear, putting it at risk of becoming detached from the back of the eye. This can cause vision loss and requires immediate surgical intervention. We strongly urge you to contact us straight away if you experience the associated symptoms – a sudden onset of floaters or flashes – particularly if you’re shortsighted.
If you have any concerns, give us a call. We’ll arrange an appointment so we can take a good look at your retina and eye health. With our OCT and Optomap eye scans, we’ll quickly be able to identify if there is anything to worry about. Unlimited emergency appointments and retinal scans are also included as part of our Eyecare Plan.