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Floaters and flashes

You may see small spots or specks moving in your field of vision, or experience flashes of light. Although annoying, floaters and flashes are usually of little importance. In some cases, however, floaters and flashes may be the symptoms of a more serious eye problems such as retinal detachment.


What are floaters?

You usually see floaters when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are tiny clumps of gel (or cells) inside the vitreous, the clear fluid that fills the inside of your eye. These objects may look like they are in front of the eye, however, they are actually floating inside. What you’re seeing are the shadows they cast on the retina (the nerve layer at the back of the eye that senses light and allows you to see).

Floaters can have many different shapes: little dots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs.


What causes floaters?

As you age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands in the eye. The vitreous gel can pull away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a common cause of floaters.

Posterior vitreous detachment is more common for people who:

  • are nearsighted
  • have undergone cataract operation
  • have had YAG laser surgery of the eye
  • have had inflammation inside the eye

Floaters treatment WisconsinAre floaters ever serious?

Yes, in some cases.  The retina can tear if shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the wall of the eye. This can cause a small amount of bleeding in the eye.  This may appear as new floaters.

A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment. You should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible if:

  • A new floater suddenly appears
  • You see sudden flashes of light
  • If you notice loss of side vision


Are floaters treatable?

Although annoying, floaters are (usually) not vision threatening, they may require treatment. Floaters often diminish, becoming less bothersome in time. If a floater appear directly in your line of vision, moving your eye around may help. Looking up and down may cause the vitreous fluid to swirl around, allowing the floater to move.

When floaters indicate a more serious condition, a laser can be used to prevent vision loss. Retinal tears can be sealed with an Argon laser. This Argon laser can seal retinal tears, and is a painless treatment performed in our office. This could prevent more serious conditions, such as retina detachment.

Flashes and floaters in eyeWhat are flashes?

Flashing lights, or lightning streaks, appear in the field of vision although no light is actually flashing. Flashes are similar to the sensation of “seeing stars” when you are hit on the head, most noticable at night or in the dark room.

Flashes are caused by the vitreous gel tugging on the retina. If the gel actually separates from the retina (posterior vitreous detachment), flashes of light may appear periodically for several weeks. As with floaters, flashes are usually the result of the aging process and do not indicate a serious vision problem. However, flashes which appear along with a large number of new floaters or with a loss of part of the field of vision may indicate retinal detachment, requiring an immediate eye exam.

Eye flashes migrainesFlashes and Migraines

Flashes can also occur in association with migraine headaches. A migraine is caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the visual information center of the brain. Migraine related flashes distort central vision for ten to twenty minutes and appear as jagged lines or “heat wave” in both eyes.

Unless you have symptoms of a more serious condition, flashes do not require treatment. Flashes which are a result of the vitreous pulling away from the retina will eventually stop. However, flashes may indicate retina detachment, which needs immediate medical treatment. Migraines, which are often accompanied by flashes, can be treated with medical therapy if they occur frequently, and are debilitating.




Below, Dr. I. Paul Singh, MD of The Eye Centers of Racine and Kenosha, shares his wisdom in Vitreolysis. Drawing on his experience with the Ultra Q Reflex™ multi-modality laser.  Addresses a number of topics ranging from patient selection to treatment protocol, he includes the recommended laser lenses and energy settings.

Vitreolysis in the Spotlight




The Eye Centers of Racine and Kenosha are the only providers in Wisconsin who have the new, state of the art, YAG laser. This laser procedure is a way of removing floaters with a precise beam of light. Through the pupil, it vaporizes the floaters that are obstructing the patient’s vision.

Look here for educational information on Eye Floaters and Solutions

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