Are Flashes and Floaters a Cause for Concern?

Most people experience flashes and floaters occasionally. Flashes are light bursts often described as seeing stars. Floaters are dark squiggles or spots that drift across your field of vision and disappear. Floaters can be a typical sign of aging.

However, they could indicate something more severe if they suddenly increase or appear with vision loss or light flashes. In such a case, you should call your eye doctor or visit the nearest emergency room immediately.

Causes of Flashers & Floaters

As your eyes age, the vitreous gel may start to shrink or thicken, pulling away from the wall of the eye. That can cause strands or clumps inside the vitreous, the gel-like, clear fluid inside the eye. These strands and clumps cast shadows on the retina, causing floaters. Eye care professionals call this a posterior vitreous detachment. Floaters are more likely to develop in individuals who:

  • Have had eye inflammation.
  • Are middle-aged.
  • Had previous YAG laser surgery.
  • Had previous cataract surgery.
  • Have a fungal infection.
  • Have myopia.
  • Have diabetes.
flashes and floaters

Sudden Floaters

If new floaters suddenly appear out of nowhere, there may be cause for concern. A retinal tear can happen if the vitreous gel suddenly and forcefully pulls away from the back wall of the eye.

That can cause bleeding inside the eye, appearing as new floaters. A retinal tear is a significant problem since it can cause retinal detachment. See your eye doctor as soon as possible if you experience flashing lights or new floaters that appear suddenly.

Flashing Lights

A hit in the head or eye can cause you to see flashing lights, often described as stars. Like floaters, flashing lights may occasionally occur as you age, resulting from the vitreous gel pulling or rubbing the back of the eye. Flashing lights can come and go for weeks or months. However, a sudden onset of light flashes may indicate a torn retina, a cause for concern.


Some individuals experience light flashes that look like heat waves or jagged lines in both eyes, lasting up to 20 minutes. Such light flashes usually result from a blood vessel spasm in the brain, known as a migraine.

If you experience a headache following the flashing lights, you have a migraine headache. An ocular or ophthalmic migraine is when you experience flashes without a headache. In this case, you should contact your eye doctor as soon as possible.

Treatment for Eye Floaters

Often, it is not necessary to treat floaters. Although they can be bothersome and annoying, they are usually harmless, and you may stop noticing them over time. However, eye floater surgery is an option if your problem involves significant risk to your eyesight. In cases where there are many new floaters or they are starting to affect your vision, our eye doctor may recommend a vitrectomy to remove them. If you are dealing with the sudden onset of eye floaters, you should visit an eye doctor for an eye exam.

Treatment for Eye Flashes

Taking care of the underlying condition causing flashes usually relieves the flashes. For example, you will experience fewer flashes if you treat your migraines. The same applies if you are experiencing a retinal tear or detachment. Treating this condition will help relieve the light flashes.

Proper eye care is critical as you age. It is often a good idea to contact your eye doctor if you notice anything strange happening with your vision. The best way to keep your eyes and vision healthy over time is by voicing your concerns and scheduling regular comprehensive eye exams.

For more on floaters and flashes, visit Progressive Ophthalmology at our office in Queens, New York. Call 718-565-2020 to book an appointment today.