Flashes and Floaters are symptoms experienced by
many people. Flashes are experienced as a lighting
streak, originating within the eye, in the field of vision.
Flashes are most often noticed at night or in a dark room.
Floaters are perceived as freely mobile single or
multiple black spots in the line of vision. Majority of
times these flashes and floaters are harmless. However,
these may also point towards more serious conditions of
retina like retinal breaks, retinal detachment, vitreous
hemorrhage etc., which if not treated promptly, may
lead to severe loss of vision. Hence it is important not to
ignore these symptoms and get a detailed retinal
checkup to prevent serious complications.
What causes Flashes and Floaters?
The interior portion of the human eye is filled with a
gelatinous substance called vitreous. With time, the
vitreous gel liquefies and eventually pulls away or
separates from the back of the eye where it is attached to
the retina. This process is called Posterior Vitreous
Detachment (PVD) and is a normal event occurring in
most people somewhere between the ages of 40-70
During this separation of PVD, the pull on the retina is
perceived by some people as a Flash of light. These may
occur anywhere in the field of vision. If the gel is abnormally adherent to the retina, or the retina is
weak in a certain area, a retinal tear can occur. Once a
retinal tear develops there is a significant risk of the
liquid vitreous going through the break and causing
Any opacity in the vitreous, which comes in the line
of vision is perceived as Floaters. Even normal
vitreous may contain some opacities which are
perceived as floaters. During PVD, the debris
generated in the vitreous may lead to sudden
increase in floaters. Also sometimes, during the
separation, a blood vessel of the retina may rupture
with or without retinal tear and can cause vitreous
hemorrhage (bleeding in the vitreous) which is
perceived as shower of floaters. Large hemorrhages
can cause large dark blobs in the visual field or an
overall decrease in vision.
What to do once Flashes or Floaters are noticed?
If you have symptoms of a PVD (floaters, flashes,
shower of spots or gray areas approaching from the
side) it is important to have a prompt and thorough
examination of the retina, so a search can be made
for any retinal break or other pathology. Fortunately
the great majority of PVDs do not cause a retinal tear
and not all tears will lead to detachment.
How is retinal break or tear treated?
A retinal break or tear can be treated by a simple
preventive procedure of Laser or Cryopexy, as an
outpatient procedure. These procedures create an
adhesion between the retina and the underlying
tissue by forming a scar tissue. This scar tissue
prevents the seepage of liquid vitreous under the
retina and thus prevents retinal detachment. These
preventive procedures are virtually harmless and are
very effective (95%) in preventing the more serious
What happens to the Flashes or Floaters?
Following a PVD, it is expected that the floaters and
flashes slowly diminish over a 3 month period. Once it
has been determined there is no underlying retinal tear
or detachment, the floaters may be considered
irritating but harmless. With time most floaters tend to
become less bothersome and often disappear. If new
floaters appear in future, they need to be examined
again to determine if they are harmless or a symptom
of the more serious retinal tear or detachment.
In some selected patients with persistent floaters,
which affect their vision, a Vitrectomy surgery may be
advised. This surgery replaces the turbid gel with a
clear fluid and thus relieves the symptoms. With
newer sutureless Vitrectomy procedures (MIVS), the
results of the surgery is very good in most of the cases
with minimal discomfort to the patients.
What are the warning symptoms for Retinal
Detachment or Retinal Tear?
• Floaters, especially sudden onset
• Loss of field of vision
• Loss of central vision
What to do if one has Retinal Detachment?
Once the retina detaches, it must be operated upon on
an urgent basis to reattach the retina. If operated early,
the results are generally quite good with significant
gain in vision. A delay in surgery decreases the
chances of success and the vision gained is also
Synergy Eye Care and its Doctors specialise in Advanced Retinal Care and is equipped to screen the patients with Flashes and Floaters and to treat any retinal lesions or complications with the help of Lasers, and MIVS Vitrectomy Surgeries using the latest machines etc. with good results
Disclaimer: Information published here is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice. If you suspect that you have a health problem, please consult your doctor immediately