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Flashes and Floaters


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Seeing spots, circles, lines or cobwebs floating in your direct line of vision? What about bright flashes of light? Flashes and floaters appear more frequently as you age. Unfortunately, you can’t prevent them, but generally, they are not serious. An exam at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute will identify any issues or reassure you that your sight is healthy.

Floaters are protein fiber debris in the vitreous jelly — a clear, gel-like substance inside the eye. The older we get, the more this vitreous gel liquefies, causing floaters to become more common.

Anything that stimulates your retina can cause flashes. Light flashes also originate from the visual centers in your brain, similar to what happens before a migraine headache.

Flashes and floaters are rarely serious. However, if you see an unexpected burst of light, loss of side vision, red floaters or if you experience eye pain with floaters, contact Bascom Palmer immediately. You may have a retinal tear or detachment requiring immediate medical attention.

What Do Floaters Look Like?

If you have this condition, you may see one or more of the following:

  • Spots, dark specks or knobby, transparent strings of floating material
  • Spots that move when you move your eyes – when you look at them, they move out of your visual field
  • Noticeable spots when you look at a plain, bright background

What Causes this Condition?

Risk factors for this eye condition include:

  • An eye inflammation triggered by infection or inflammatory diseases
  • Eye bleeding from an injury, along with blood vessel problems
  • Torn retina
  • Being 50+ years old
  • Nearsightedness
  • Eye injury or trauma
  • Complications after cataract surgery
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Family history of flashes or floaters

Whether your situation is simple or complex, you deserve excellent care, the latest treatments and technologies, and a patient-friendly health system. You deserve Bascom Palmer.


Comprehensive Eye Exam
Our eye specialists accurately diagnose floaters and flashes by thoroughly examining your eyes while dilated.


Laser Disruption
With this method, your ophthalmologist aims a laser at the floaters to break up or disrupt them. In some people, this improves vision; in others, it does not.

If floaters are seriously interfering with your vision, your doctor may recommend vitrectomy. In this surgery, your ophthalmologist removes the vitreous substance through a tiny incision, then replaces it with a salt solution so that your eye maintains its shape.


Why Choose Bascom Palmer Eye Institute?

Excellence and Expertise. When you trust your vision to an eye care team, you must feel confident. U.S. News & World Report ranks Bascom Palmer #1 in the nation. Our experience, expertise, and devotion to excellence means you achieve the best possible vision.

Patient-Friendly Support. Our ophthalmologists are some of today’s brightest researchers and renowned eye experts. Along with our other eye care professionals, they are compassionate caregivers who respect your unique health needs.

Multidisciplinary Approach to Care. Floaters and flashes may indicate more serious eye problems. Having a team of specialists with diverse skills working to improve your vision gives you an added edge.

Science-Based Medicine. When you seek care from a university-based health system, you tap into high level knowledge gained through our extensive research and training. Our physicians investigate and innovate for the benefit of patients.

Questions? We're here to help.

Our appointment specialists are ready to help you find what you need. Contact us today.