Flashes and floaters – what do I do?

You may have noticed what seem like squiggly lines in your eyes and wondered what causes them? The answer is, they are eye floaters. Though harmless, they can cause visual distraction and discomfort.

What Causes Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters may appear as specks or cobwebs that move in and out of your eye with your gaze. They may appear to enter and leave your vision randomly while others may be more permanent and are continuously in your line of sight.

Floaters usually begin to appear as we age as the vitreous in the eye liquefies creating microscopic fibers that cast shadows on the retina at the back of your eye.

Symptoms usually include:

  • Specks or tiny strings in the line of vision
  • Spots on the horizon or on a white wall
  • Strings that drift in and out of vision

Most people experience little or no discomfort from eye floaters and may not even notice they are there. Some may only appear occasionally, while others may show up daily.

When Should I See an Optometrist?

For most people, floaters have little impact on their day-to-day vision. However, there are some important symptoms to watch out for that may indicate there is a more serious problem in your eyes.

  • Light flashes – if you are experiencing flashes of light, it may be the result of a more serious eye condition like retinal detachment or nerve disorders like multiple sclerosis. Flashes may also be caused by pressure on the retina if you rub your eyes too hard or get hit on the head.
  • New or sudden increase floaters – if your eye seems to be filled with floaters, there may too much pressure or damage to your eye.
  • Darkness or loss of peripheral vision – this is an extremely significant symptom to watch out for. If you are having trouble seeing out of either direction of your eye, or a dark veil comes across your eyes, it’s definitely time to speak with one of our optometrists urgently.

Eye Floaters vs Flashes

There are several differences between eye floaters and flashes.

Floaters appear as lines and cobwebs around the eye while flashes as spots of light that you can see in your field of vision. These flashes come from inside the eye rather than external light.

Eye floaters are generally a normal part of getting older and should not cause alarm. If you are experiencing flashes of light in your vision, it is important to see one of our optometrists right away, as it may be a symptom of a more significant health problem such as:

  • Choroidal neovascular membranes
  • A migraine
  • Posterior vitreous detachment

If you are experiencing floaters or flashes, contact our team of optometrists in Belleville, Brighton, Trenton or Picton so we can arrange an emergency checkup for your peace of mind. We have state of the art scanning equipment that can accurately photograph 3D images of the back of your eye, allowing us to make a diagnosis straight away.