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What are Eye Floaters and Flashes?

Eye floaters are tiny specks or threads that drift across your vision, often more noticeable against a bright background. Flashes resemble flickers or lightning streaks caused by the vitreous gel tugging on the retina. These visual quirks are common but can signal underlying issues. Wondering how they affect your eye health? Let's unveil the mystery behind these visual phenomena together.
Erin J. Hill
Erin J. Hill

Eye floaters and flashes are generally caused by debris which results from small tears in the vitreous humor within the eye. These pieces can either block vision in small areas, or cast a shadow against the retina, leading to dark spots in one's field of vision. Flashes are caused by a similar issue, but the vitreous gel instead rubs against the retina or pulls at the corners, leading to what looks like flashing lights. Occasionally, these issues can be caused by a torn retina, which should be treated as a medical emergency.

In most cases, eye floaters and flashes are normal and do not require treatment. Most people experience them at one time or another and they sometimes go away on their own, although they may last for months or even years. Eventually the gel may settle and floaters move out of one’s field of vision, making them seemingly disappear. Flashes may come and go throughout one’s life with no problems.

Floaters and flashes may become worse when people are out in the sun.
Floaters and flashes may become worse when people are out in the sun.

These conditions may become worse when out in the sun or when in a brightly lit room. This may create more of a contrast between the surroundings and the gel debris. They may be bothersome to some individuals, especially the first few times they are noticed because they can be distracting when trying to focus.

There is no way to get rid of floaters or flashes. They sometimes disappear on their own if given enough time when the gel begins to settle toward the bottom of the eye. Sometimes additional floaters will appear later. Both conditions are most common in the elderly or those who have a minor injury to the eye, but anyone can experience these conditions even without an external cause.

Eye floaters and flashes are common in the elderly.
Eye floaters and flashes are common in the elderly.

In rare cases, floaters and flashes in the eyes can be caused by a tear in the retina. This is a serious medical condition which should be treated promptly in order to avoid blindness. Most times if the retina is torn, the symptoms will be accompanied by partial vision loss in the affected eye. Even without loss of vision, however, anyone who has a sudden onset of floaters or flashes in the eyes should seek the medical advice of an eye doctor. He or she can check to ensure that the retina is still firmly attached.

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Discussion Comments


I have been experiencing floaters and flashes for about three weeks and I went to my ophthalmologist and he said that everything looked O.K., so I went to my family doctor and he sent me for an MRI and that turned out to be fine also. I just don't know what is going on! I can't stand seeing these things all of the time. I just wish there was something that could cure these.


If you ever get migraine headaches, it is not unusual to experience flashes and floaters. I know that I have a bad migraine coming on when I see the flashes of light around my eyes. The only way to get rid of them is to lie down in a dark room until the headache goes away.

I do not experience them at any other time, and have been told that this is a common symptoms for some people with migraines. It can just seem kind of weird at first, with this light flashing that you don't know where it is coming from.


I have noticed eye floaters a few different times when I am outside in the bright sun. If I keep my sunglasses on, then I do not have them, but if I am outside for an extended period of time without sunglasses, that is when I notice them.

If you start seeing floaters, it can feel pretty strange, and you wonder what is going on. There has never been any pain with them, and they are not constant. When I had them checked, my eye doctor said there was nothing serious and to just be sure and wear eye protection when outside in the sun.

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    • Floaters and flashes may become worse when people are out in the sun.
      By: stokkete
      Floaters and flashes may become worse when people are out in the sun.
    • Eye floaters and flashes are common in the elderly.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Eye floaters and flashes are common in the elderly.
    • Anatomy of the human eye.
      Anatomy of the human eye.