Washington Eye Physicians & Surgeons

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Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815

Flashes and Floaters

I have things floating across my vision. What can I do to reduce these floaters?
Understanding Flashes and Floaters in Vision


It is quite common that at some point in your life you will experience flashes and floaters. Although mostly associated with the aging eyes it can happen for a variety of reasons even for younger people. Flashes and floaters consist of small spots or specks, sometimes even looking like molecular strands floating over your vision. Floaters are more routinely seen on illuminated backgrounds. Flashes of light may also be associated with floaters or may occur separately. Most of the time flashes and floaters are related to the jelly-like substance called vitreous which fills approximately 80% percent of the eye. When we get older, the vitreous fluid undergoes an aging process where this substance becomes more liquid and less jelly-like. The floaters are basically protein deposits that have formed within the vitreous fluid.

The sudden onset of flashes or floaters can be an important warning signal of impeding problems. Approximately 1 in 10 people who develop the abrupt onset of prominent floaters or light flashes in an eye will be found to have a retinal tear. This retinal tear can be detected in a dilated eye exam.

What Causes Floaters?

When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. The vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. It is a common cause of floaters.

Posterior vitreous detachment is more common for people who:

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

Seriousness of Floaters
Floaters can be a serious problem, however; in most cases the problems are not serious. Please consult our eye doctor directly before trying to diagnose the severity of this condition. If you are seeking a flashes and floaters eye care physician please complete our website contact form and we can arrange an appointment.

What Are the Symptoms of Flashes and Floaters?

  •     Moving spots and stringy debris that move past or remain in your field of vision
  •     Flashing Lights in your peripheral vision