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Flashes and Floaters

Patients should see an optometrist if they experience new onset of flashes or floaters in their vision without delaying.

These symptoms can indicate a serious problem with the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye.

Floaters are tiny spots, strings or webs that float in front of the eye and can be seen when looking at a plain background, like a white wall. Flashes are bright flashes of light that can be seen in the peripheral vision.

Flashes and floaters can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:

  • Vitreous detachment: As we age, the gel-like substance in the back of the eye (vitreous) can pull away from the retina. This is called a vitreous detachment and it can cause floaters.

  • Retinal detachment: A retinal detachment is a serious condition in which the retina pulls away from the back of the eye. It is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment to prevent blindness. Flashes and floaters are common symptoms of retinal detachment.

  • Retinal tear: A retinal tear is a small hole or tear in the retina. It can cause floaters and flashes, and it can lead to a retinal detachment if not treated.


An optometrist can perform a comprehensive eye examination to evaluate the retina and determine the cause of the flashes and floaters. Treatment for retinal conditions may include laser or cryotherapy, or surgery. It's important to address these symptoms as soon as possible to prevent vision loss and ensure proper treatment.

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