Blog post by: Eye Physicians of Long Beach

Fatigued older man rubbing his eyes in front of a computer

Have you ever seen specks or what looks like wavy lines in your field of vision? These are what are known as flashes and floaters.

Floaters and flashes are often a regular part of your sight and may not be something you need to worry about. But if you suddenly have more flashes and floaters than you usually do, they can be a sign of a serious problem, like a retinal tear.

If left untreated, a retinal tear can cause permanent vision loss. Keep reading to find out more about flashes and floaters!

What are Flashes?

anatomy of flashes

As you age, the vitreous, the gel found at the back of your eye, becomes more liquid and gradually pulls away from the retina. This condition is referred to as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).

As the vitreous tugs from the retina, you may experience flashes of light that come and go in one or both eyes. Flashes are usually a lot at the corners of your eye, although they don’t interfere with your vision.

Sometimes, seeing flashes could signal a retinal tear or detachment, which should be treated promptly to avoid permanent blindness. People with symptomatic PVD have a 10-15% risk of also developing a retinal tear.

What are Floaters?

Floaters appear when the vitreous separates into collagen fibers. These tiny strands and dots can be transparent or dark and typically drift in front of your eyes.

However, they move whenever you try to focus on them, so you’ll never be able to see them. Floaters are quite common, generally harmless, and more evident when you’re looking at bright backgrounds like a white wall or clear skies.

Causes of Floaters and Flashes

Besides the normal aging process, flashes and floaters can occur due to:

older woman trying to read cell phone
  • Eye infections
  • Diabetes
  • Spasm of small blood vessels
  • Diabetes
  • Eye injury
  • Nearsightedness

Seeing flashes and floaters is not usually something you should be concerned about. But if you’re suddenly seeing more flashes and floaters in your field of vision, this is something that you may want to have checked out by your eye doctor.

Should You Be Worried About Flashes and Floaters?

Typically, a few floaters and flashes are no cause for alarm. However, you should be on the lookout for the following symptoms and contact your eye doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:

man wiping his eyes while on laptop
  • A large floater that wasn’t there previously
  • An abrupt increase in the number of flashes and floaters
  • A change in flashing lights or floaters after direct trauma to the eye
  • A curtain-like shadow in your peripheral or central vision
  • Eye pain
  • Loss of vision

These symptoms could indicate a retinal tear or detachment. An increase in floaters accompanied by flashes or floaters could point to several conditions, including:

  • Inflammatory disease or infection
  • Bleeding in the eye due to clogged blood vessels, diabetes, or hypertension
  • Retinal tear that could eventually cause retinal detachment
  • Detachment of the vitreous from the retina

It’s always best to see your eye doctor if you have any concerns or think there may be a possibility that you’ve had a retinal detachment.

Treatment of Flashes and Floaters

If your flashes and floaters are simply due to aging, no treatment is required aside from frequent monitoring. Most of the time, they’ll reduce in number if aging is the reason they occur.

However, if there’s an infection inside your eye, bleeding, a retinal tear, or retinal detachment, you’ll need treatment that may include:

  • Oral medications
  • Prescription eye drops
  • Retinal tear treatment
  • Vitrectomy
  • Laser surgery

Retinal Tear Treatment

retinal detachment

Early detection of a retinal tear is vital in preventing your retina from detaching. A tear can be treated using laser light to attach the retina to the back of your eye.

This procedure is referred to as laser photocoagulation. A gas bubble can also be injected into your eye during laser photocoagulation to reattach the retina.

When it comes to larger retinal detachments, you can have them fixed surgically. It’s important to note that you must treat damage to the retina swiftly to avoid total loss of vision.


Large, persistent floaters that impede vision can be removed surgically using a procedure known as vitrectomy. The surgery isn’t recommended unless you have severe symptoms of floaters.

Your surgeon will use special instruments to remove the vitreous gel in your eye and floaters during a vitrectomy. A similar liquid or gas bubble is left in place of the vitreous to maintain your eye shape.

Post-op, you’ll notice that the floaters are considerably reduced or gone. A vitrectomy can be performed under local or general anesthesia, depending on the patient.

Vitrectomies are not always popular due to the risks involved and possible complications that patients may develop. These can include glaucoma, cataracts, and new retinal detachment caused by the procedure, among others.

Ultra Q Reflex Laser with Reflex Technology™ for Floater Treatment

A laser breaks up the floaters into tiny pieces during laser floater treatment, making them less apparent. The ophthalmologists at Eye Physicians of Long Beach use the Ultra Q Reflex™ laser system.

The system is minimally invasive, painless, and safe. This breakthrough technology applies pulses of laser energy to the floaters, reducing or vaporizing them into a gas bubble that the eye can reabsorb and won’t interfere with your vision.

Get Help for Your Flashes and Floaters

Have you developed new flashes or floaters? If you’re concerned about flashes and floaters, the best thing you can do is schedule an appointment to discuss your symptoms.

If there are any concerns, we’ll give you a dilated exam to ensure there are no underlying issues like a retinal tear or detachment. Our ophthalmologists at Eye Physicians of Long Beach are extensively experienced and trained in treating floaters and flashes to restore and preserve your vision.

Schedule an appointment at Eye Physicians of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA, today!