What Causes Flashes, Spots & Floaters?

An overview about spots and floaters

Small flecks of protein or other natural matter are in the vitreous during the formation of the eye and remain in the vitreous “gel” of the eye (on the inside of the eyeball) – these are occasionally seen as spots or floaters. Spots and floaters can also be caused by deterioration of the vitreous as part of the normal aging process.

Almost everyone occasionally experiences the sensation of spots floating in their vision. As we grow older, the spots can become more frequent. These spots can be fuzzy in appearance or strung together with a web-like thread and are called floaters.

Spots and floaters can be distracting and annoying but are usually not visually significant or harmful. But, spots and floaters can also be symptomatic of serious retinal problems that can be caused by diabetes, macular degeneration and/or injury to the head or eye. It is important to notify your eye care professional if you notice an increase in number or frequency of floaters, a “snow shower” of floating spots, unusual flashes of light, or a "dark curtain" over part of your vision.

A thorough eye health and vision examination is the best advice for anyone experiencing flashes, spots or floaters in order to determine if these experiences are indicators of normal aging eyes or symptomatic of an eye disorder requiring special attention.

What causes light "flashes" in our vision

Flashes are bright points of light that literally flash into the field of vision. Flashes come and go in an instant and normally occur in only one eye at a time. Over time. the vitreous also beings to shrink and pull away from the retina. As the vitreous shrinks, it can tug on the retina. When this happens, it is interpreted as a "flicker" of light.

Depending on the extent and the force of the tug, the retina can be torn or detached from the back of the eye, causing additional flashes of light. Early detection and treatment of retinal tears and detachments is critically important to your eye-health.

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