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Flashes & Floaters

What are Flashes?

Flashes can look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vision.  Some people compare them to seeing stars after being hit on the head.  You might see flashed on and off for weeks, or even months.  Flashes happen when the vitreous rubs or pulls on your retina.

What are Floaters?

Floaters look like small specks, dots, circles, lines or cobwebs in your field of vision.  While they seem to be in front of your eye, they are floating inside.  Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous that fills your eye.  What you see are the shadows the clumps cast on your retina. You usually notice floaters when looking at something plain, like a blank wall or a blue sky.

When Flashes and Floaters are Serious:

Most flashes and floaters are not a problem.  However, there are times when they can be signs of a serious condition.  Here is when you should call and ophthalmologist right away.

  • You notice a lot of new floaters
  • You have a lot of flashes
  • A shadow appeared in your peripheral (side) vision
  • A gray curtain covers part of your vision

These flashes and floaters could be symptoms of a torn or detached retina.  This is when the retina pulls away from the back of your eye.  This is serious condition that needs to be treated.   If you are experiencing these conditions, please schedule an appointment immediately.

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