Floaters and Flashes

What are Floaters?

Floaters are a common phenomenon, often described as small threads, hairs, cobwebs or specks which drift back and forth in the vision following movements of the head or eye. Floaters are usually the result of condensations within the gel (vitreous) in the back of the eye; these condensations develop when the vitreous separates spontaneously from the retina (the inner lining of the back wall of the eye).

Floaters are often more noticeable when one is looking at the sky or a white surface, and they are more common with age. Floaters are not always a sign that there is a serious problem with the eye, but new floaters or a sudden increase in number of floaters sometimes can be a symptom of serious conditions such as a tears or detachments of the retina. Nearsighted people can be more susceptible to these retinal problems.


Anyone experiencing new symptoms, especially a sudden shower of specks or cobwebs in the vision or flashing lights like lightening in the peripheral vision, should have a complete dilated eye examination within 24 to 48 hours by an ophthalmologist. Shadows in the vision can be a more ominous sign of a retinal detachment, and immediate attention is required (please see Retinal Tears).

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