Floaters and flashes are common eye complaints.
Floaters are little dots, specks, lines, clouds or shadows that people see in their vision.
They appear to be objects in front of the eye but are actually within the eye. They are more obviously seen against a white background or blue sky and in bright lighting. Most people have some floaters but only notice them when the number of them increase.
Flashes are dim lights, like lightning, which are seen in the corners of the vision. they are more obvious in the dark and when moving the eye.
Causes of floaters and flashes
Most floaters are usually related to ageing. Due to ageing, the jelly in the eye, the vitreous, changes. The jelly in the eye becomes more liquid and interfaces form between the liquid and jelly causing shadows to be cast to the back of the eye. Due to these same changes, the jelly may also shrink and pull on the retina of the eye causing flashes to be seen. The retina is the nerve tissue of the eye that senses light.
There is concern when seeing a sudden increase in the number of floaters. The concern is whether a retina tear has occurred. This concern is heightened if a denser shadow in the vision has occurred anywhere in the vision. In such an instance, an eye check by an ophthalmologist is required.
If an eye check does not find a retinal tear or retinal detachment, no treatment is required. Often, the floaters and flashes will reduce in number and frequency over time. However, a retinal tear will require treatment with laser. A retinal detachment will require major eye surgery.