SNEC Explains: Floaters and Flashes

PHOTO: SNEC Explains: Floaters and Flashes

Occasionally, small dots, lines or 'cobwebs' may float in our vision.

But when this happens very often - and is accompanied by flashes of light in your vision - the condition can be more serious.

What are Floaters and Flashes and how do I know if I have them?

Floaters are flying flies or dots that you may sometimes see moving in your field of vision. Flashes are the illusion of flashing lights or lightning streaks.

Floaters are more obvious when you are out in bright sunlight or looking at a white background. As for flashes, they may appear on and off for several weeks or months.

What causes Floaters and Flashes?

Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cellular debris inside the vitreous (a jelly-like fluid) that fills the inside cavity of the eye.

Although floaters appear to be in front of the eye, they are actually floating in the vitreous fluid inside the eye and they cast shadows on the retina, the light sensing inner layer of the eye.

Moving our eyes up and down creates currents within the vitreous that move the floaters away from your direct line of vision. Floaters result from the normal ageing process when vitreous fluid degenerates.

Flashes also result from the normal ageing process and are usually not a cause for worry.

Floaters and flashes are only a matter of concern if the degenerated vitreous pulls away from the retina and tears it. This causes a little bleeding in the eye, and may appear as a group of new floaters.

Severe retinal tearing may develop into retinal detachment, causing vision loss. It is important to see your eye doctor when you see a sudden onset of many new floaters or flashes.

What can I do to prevent Floaters or Flashes?

There are no ways to prevent floaters and flashes that are caused by ageing.

However, you should always maintain good eye health and have your eyes checked frequently.

If a floater appears directly in your line of vision, try moving your eye around. Looking up and down may also be effective in getting the floaters out of the way of your vision.

What kinds of treatments are available for Floaters and Flashes?

There is no treatment or cure for floaters or flashes. They usually diminish by themselves over time.

This article was contributed by Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC). For more information, visit SNEC's website at