What Are Floaters and Flashes? By Eric Del Piero on January 18, 2016

Close up of an eyeAt Monterey County Eye Associates, our experienced, award-winning ophthalmologists provide a comprehensive range of eye care services, from advanced retinal care to thorough eye exams. During the latter, many patients have questions about the floaters and flashing lights they experience. Our Monterey, CA ophthalmologists explain that, in the vast majority of cases, floaters and flashes are really nothing to be concerned about - in fact, they’re extremely common visual anomalies. We also explain when floaters and flashes should be causes for concern.

If you experience floaters and flashes, the chances are good that they aren’t indications of a serious eye condition. However, if you have not had an eye exam in the past two years, we would urge you to schedule one at Monterey County Eye Associates today. There is nothing more precious than your vision, and routine eye exams are the best way to ensure that you maintain the health of your vision for years to come.

What Are Floaters?

Between the lens and retina of your eye, there is a space that is filled with a clear gel called the vitreous humor, often simply referred to as the vitreous. Over time, the vitreous begins to lose its gel-like consistency, becoming watery. However, particles of the gel retain its original consistency, floating around in the liquefied vitreous. These particles can take on shapes similar to dots, lines, circles, or even cobwebs.

Normally, people don’t notice these little particles, and they never see the particles, themselves. What they do see are the shadows that the particles cast on the retina when they are looking at certain backdrops. For example, if you view a web page that contains black print on a white background, the shadows of the particles may be more prominent. These shadows are what we refer to as floaters.

Again, these floaters are not generally anything to be concerned about. However, if you suddenly begin to notice new floaters, you should visit our practice immediately. The sudden emergence of new floaters could be a sign of a retinal tear due to the shrinking vitreous pulling away from the back wall of the eye.

What Are Flashes?

Flashes comprise what appear to be flashing lights, such as those that occur when you rub your eyes. If you have ever been hit in the eyes, then you have experienced the extreme form of flashes. Flashes occur when the vitreous exerts pressure or pulls on the retina.

As people age, occasional flashes are common. However, if you have a sudden onset of frequent flashes, then you should visit our ophthalmologists immediately. As with the sudden appearance of new floaters, the sudden appearance of flashes could indicate a retinal tear.

Learn More about Floaters and Flashing Lights

If you have experienced new floaters or a sudden increase in flashes, it is urgent that you schedule an appointment with our eye care experts immediately. If you simply have a question about floaters and flashes, or you want to schedule your initial consultation with one of our ophthalmologists, please contact Monterey County Eye Associates today.

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The team of doctors at Monterey County Eye Associates

Monterey County Eye Associates
Monterey Bay Eye Center

Our team of ophthalmologists provides state-of-the-art eye care using the latest technology. They are proud to be affiliated with: 

  • AAO: American Academy of Ophthalmology
  • ABO: American Board of Ophthalmology

To schedule an appointment at one of our four ophthalmologist office locations in Monterey, Salinas, and King City, contact us online or call (831) 424-1150.

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