Are floaters and flashers cause for concern?

iStock 498402831 For the most part, floaters and flashes in your eyes aren’t a problem. There are times, however, when they can be a sign of a more serious problem. Read on to learn about what each of these conditions are and when it may be time to see your doctor about it.


Floaters appear as small dots, specks, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision. Essentially, they are tiny clumps of cells inside the vitreous or gel-like fluid that fills your eye. Floaters are visible as shadows that the clumps of cells cast on your eye’s retina. 

Floaters are common with aging and tend to not be serious. They often fade and become less noticeable over time. If you are nearsighted, have had inflammation or swelling inside the eye or surgery for cataracts, then you are more prone to getting floaters. You can get surgery if you have severe floaters, but it’s often not needed or recommended.


If you see what appears to be flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vision, then you may be dealing with floaters. You may see them on and off for weeks or months at a time, and they may go away. When the vitreous rubs on the retina, you see flashes. 

Aging, again, is one of the most common reasons why people will see occasional flashes. Some people who see jagged lines or flashes that look like heat waves could be suffering from a migraine. These flashes are indicative that a migraine is coming, but may not be followed by a migraine at all. That’s called an ophthalmic migraine.

When floaters and flashes cause concern

Usually, floaters and flashes are not serious. But if you start having a lot of flashes or new floaters, or you notice a shadow that appears in your side vision or a gray curtain that covers part of your vision, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to rule out anything serious. Sometimes these signs and symptoms could be a torn or detached retina, which is a serious problem that needs to be treated. 

If you are concerned about floaters and flashers, schedule an appointment by calling (508) 836-8733 today.

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