Are flashes and floaters bad for my vision health?

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At the Longwood Eye & LASIK Center of Massachusetts, our ophthalmologists routinely work with patients who come in with concerns such as flashes and floaters. We are experienced providers who can assess a patient’s current situation and provide treatment when needed to alleviate these issues whenever possible.

What are flashes and floaters?

Flashes are brief, “strobing” flashes of light, while floaters look like small “cobwebs” or specks that drift across your field of vision. They both may appear more prominent when you look at a bright, uniform background. Floaters are actually very small clumps of cells or debris that float in the jelly-like substance inside your eye (vitreous). They are not harmful, and having some is considered normal, though they can be bothersome as they become larger or more developed. In some instances, patients may ask their ophthalmologist about undergoing a special treatment with laser light energy that can penetrate into the eye and break down these clumps to reduce the severity of floaters.

Flashes, on the other hand, may be a more serious concern. They are usually caused by tiny “tears” or detachments in the retina, the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of your eye. These tears or detachments can occur spontaneously or may be related to an injury. When they do occur, it is important to see an ophthalmologist right away, as they can lead to a more serious problem called a retinal detachment. Retinal detachments are a medical emergency that can cause blindness if not treated promptly and properly.

What are the symptoms of retinal detachment?

Patients should be aware of retinal detachment and what signs to look for if it is occurring. While flashes are one way to detect this issue, other symptoms may include:

  • A sudden or gradual increase in the number of floaters in your field of vision
  • A shadow that can occur in the peripheral (side) vision
  • A decrease in central vision that may appear as a curtain coming down over part of your vision

If you experience any of the above symptoms, see a professional right away. Retinal detachments can happen quickly and often without warning, so prompt medical attention is key to preserving your vision and avoiding serious complications.

When should I connect with an eye doctor regarding flashes or floaters?

If you experience either flashes or floaters (or both), it is critical that you consult with a local ophthalmologist to determine the cause and appropriate treatment, if necessary. The team at the Longwood Eye & LASIK Center can be reached at 800-676-5050 to request an appointment.


For Urgent/Problem Appointments, please call the office and do not submit an online form request

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