Though Normally Benign, a Sudden Increase in Eye Flashes or Floaters May Indicate the Development of an Eye Disease

Most people have experienced flashes and floaters in their vision. Typically nothing more than a minor annoyance, a sudden increase in the prevalence of both flashes or floaters warrants investigation by an Optometrist. This sudden increase may be linked to a developing eye disease.

If you’re concerned about a recent onset of flashes or floaters, or if the amount and frequency of flashes/floaters has significantly increased recently, we encourage you to visit us for a comprehensive eye exam. During the exam we will thoroughly check your eye for signs of developing eye diseases that may be related to your flashes/floaters.

A “flash” is the result of the retina being manipulated in some fashion (ie- pulled by a muscle). When the retina is stimulated it uses electrical energy to provide sensory information to the brain. When stimulated physically (as opposed to being stimulated by light), a similar electric pulse is sent to the brain, creating the “flashes” you see in your vision.

A “floater” is the little lines/spots in your vision that seem to float in your peripheral. They move out of your central vision when you try to focus on them, seemingly jumping out of sight.

Floaters are made of small pieces of material floating in the vitreous gel inside your eye. When exposed to light, they cast a shadow on the retina- hence appearing as “floaters” in your vision.

It is normal to see floaters and flashes every now and again. For many people, headaches are precipitated by flashes.

A sudden increase in floaters or flashes may be cause for concern, and definitely needs to be checked out by an Optometrist. A sudden increase of floaters or flashes could be indicative of the a developing eye disease or an imminent ocular emergency (such as posterior vitreous detachment or even retinal detachment).

Approximately 40% of people that experience a sudden onset of floaters/flashes have posterior vitreous detachment, and approximately 9% have a torn retina.

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