Eye Floaters and Flashes of Light

Eye floaters and flashes of light are likely to increase as you age and are completely normal. However, there are circumstances when you should get these checked by a specialist.

Have you experienced dark shapes or frequent flashes of light over your vision? Book a private appointment to receive an expert opinion on your eye health.

What are eye floaters and flashes of light?

Do you see small dots, squiggly lines, rings or cobweb-like shapes drifting across your vision? We call these eye floaters. They will still be there if you blink, though they may become easy to ignore. Floaters may look black or grey, like a shadow.

Flashes are brief flashes of light, similar to camera flashes, over your vision. They are sometimes mistaken for a streak of lightning. You may experience floaters alongside flashes of light or separately.

Contact our clinic if either of these appears or increases in number suddenly or impacts your vision.

When to contact a doctor

Flashing lights are more common if you suffer from migraines and are usually associated with headaches. If you only see flashing lights, you may want to speak to your doctor before speaking to an eye specialist. You should also speak to a doctor if you have blurred vision or dizziness.

What causes eye floaters and flashes of light?

The most common cause of eye floaters is age. The vitreous (a gel-like substance inside your eye) shrinks and becomes more watery as you age. As this happens, the vitreous pulls away from the eyeball’s inside surface (posterior vitreous detachment), which can cause flashes in the corner of your eye. The vitreous clumps and moves around in the eye as it is more mobile, seen as floaters.

The vitreous gel bumping or tugging against the retina of your eye can cause flashes of light. Persistent flashing lights with more floaters can be a sign of a retinal tear or retinal detachment, which can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated. It’s hard to know the cause yourself, so you should seek the advice of an eye care specialist. 

Risk factors

As discussed, age is the biggest risk factor for floaters and flashes of light. You are more likely to experience floaters if you are over 50, are nearsighted (myopia), or have diabetes. Blood in your eye can also lead to experiencing them. This is less common, though you are more likely to experience this if you have diabetes, sickle cell disease or some other type of retinal disease.

If you’ve had eye problems previously, including eye surgery, you also have a higher risk. Additional risk factors include inflammation in the eye (uveitis) and complications from cataract surgery.

Treatment options

If you are experiencing eye floaters, you should get your eye checked regularly to monitor your vitreous and prevent severe eye problems later on. We can remove them surgically, though this is not usually necessary. Moving your eyes by looking up and down or left and right can help shift the floater to a less disturbing position.

If your eye floaters and flashes are caused by a retinal detachment or retinal tear, you may require urgent treatment. A retinal tear can usually be treated with a laser. This treatment is called laser retinopexy. We treat retinal detachment with surgery – the type of surgery depends on various factors, including size, duration and location of the detachment.

Confirm this condition with an ophthalmologist (eye specialist) to rule out sight-threatening causes.

Your consultation

At your appointment, our specialist will ask about your symptoms to see how long and often you’ve had them. We will also examine your eyes to check for eye floaters and check for any signs of more serious causes. We may recommend further tests to rule out or diagnose an underlying cause. Then, we will discuss our findings with you and recommend treatment options where required.

Book an appointment

If you are experiencing eye floaters or flashes of light, book an appointment to discover the cause of your symptoms. Our specialists will provide a thorough consultation and perform any necessary tests.

Contact us today to prevent worsening vision and assess your eye health.

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0330 128 1616

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The Care Quality Commission (CQC)

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