Eye flashes and floaters are relatively common phenomena that most people have experienced at least once. They can be the result of a developing eye disease or a physical eye problem (such as a posterior vitreous detachment), but in most cases are the result of much more benign causes.
At some point in everyone’s life, a squiggly, wiggly floater is going to appear in their vision. In fact, you may recall an ode to floaters performed by a certain Stewie Griffin on Family Guy. Floaters are the subject of much confusion, as they often just randomly appear in your vision seemingly without cause.
Floaters are made up of proteins in the vitreous gel (the fluid inside your eye) that result as the structure of the vitreous changes. This is generally a result of aging. These proteins clump together and form the floaters in our vision that we know and love.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, floaters are harmless and no cause for alarm. However, they can be an indication of a developing eye disease or physical condition that needs to be addressed. For this reason we recommend that any new instance of floaters, or a sudden increase in floaters (as if it’s “snowing” floaters), be assessed by one of our optometrists.
Light flashes in our vision are much less common than floaters, though they are well known throughout our society. If you’ve ever seen someone in a Bugs Bunny cartoon with stars floating around their head after getting a bump to the noggin, you know of the effect light flashes produce.
Of course, you don’t literally see stars in your vision, but physical trauma to the eye or head can cause flashes of light to manifest in your vision. They may appear as a spark, streak, or even just a dot of light that seems to “dance” in your vision.
Flashes occur in your vision when your retina – the area inside your eye that is responsible for receiving incoming light and transmitting that information to your brain – is physically manipulated. There are a lot of reasons this may occur, from a hard bonk on the noggin, blowing your nose real hard, or something more serious (such as a developing eye disease or a retinal detachment).
Unlike floaters, which are primarily a result of aging and quite common, flashes are much less common and are the result of physical stimulus to the eye. They can be an indication of a serious eye condition or an eye disease, though are usually no cause for alarm.
We strongly recommend that a new instance of flashes be assessed by one of our optometrists. While they are most likely no cause for alarm, the potential implications they have (and what they may be an indication of) warrants investigation.