The Science Behind Floaters And Flashes: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Science Behind Floaters And Flashes

The Science Behind Floaters And Flashes: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

While it might not be a known fact, approximately 70% of people will experience flashes or floaters in their eyes by the age of 70. These visual disturbances may seem alarming, but understanding their origins can help demystify them. Let’s delve into the science behind floaters and flashes to provide reassurance and prompt timely action if needed.


What Are Floaters And Flashes?

Floaters are tiny specks or cobweb-like shapes that drift across your vision, caused by bits of cell debris in the jelly-like substance inside the eye. On the other hand, flashes are quick bursts of light that can happen in one or both eyes due to tugging on the retina.

Floaters and flashes are common visual disturbances experienced by many people. New floaters may indicate a more serious issue like retinal detachment, especially if they appear suddenly or increase rapidly in number.


Causes Of Eye Floaters And Flashes

Age-Related Changes

As we age, the vitreous humor in our eyes undergoes changes that can lead to floaters and flashes. These changes cause collagen fibers to clump together, casting shadows on the retina. Floaters are often perceived as small specks or strands drifting across your field of vision. They are particularly noticeable when looking at a plain background like a clear sky or a blank wall.

Eye Injuries And Medical Conditions

Eye injuries or trauma can also result in floaters and flashes. For example, individuals experiencing retinal tears may observe sudden onset floaters accompanied by light flashes due to the tugging of the vitreous gel on the retina.

Moreover, certain medical conditions such as diabetic retinopathy can contribute to serious causes of floaters and flashes. In diabetic retinopathy, abnormal blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina which may leak blood into the eye causing visual disturbances like floaters.


Risk Factors For Floaters And Flashes

Age And Risk

As people age, they are more likely to experience floaters and flashes in their vision. The vitreous humor inside the eye changes consistency over time, leading to the formation of floaters. This natural process is a common occurrence as individuals grow older.

Nearsightedness Connection

Individuals with nearsightedness or myopia have an increased likelihood of developing floaters and flashes. In myopic eyes, where distant objects appear blurry, there is an elongation of the eyeball shape that can contribute to retinal issues.

Post-Cataract Surgery Risks

After undergoing cataract surgery, some individuals may notice an uptick in occurrences of floaters and flashes. The procedure involves removing a cloudy lens from the eye and replacing it with an artificial one; this change can sometimes result in complications such as increased instances of these visual phenomena.


Symptoms Of Eye Floaters And Flashes

Dark Spots And Shapes

People experiencing eye floaters may notice small dark spots or shapes moving across their vision. These can resemble tiny clouds, specks, or cobwebs drifting around when they move their eyes.

Flickering Lights

Flashes, on the other hand, manifest as brief sparkles or lightning bolts in one’s side vision. They often occur due to mechanical stimulation of the retina from sudden eye movements like rubbing your eyes vigorously.


Prevention Of Eye Floaters And Flashes

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential for supporting overall eye health. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can contribute to keeping your eyes in good condition. While there is no surefire way to prevent the development of floaters and flashes, these habits may help reduce the risk.

A nutritious diet rich in vitamins and minerals, along with staying hydrated, can benefit your eyes. Foods high in antioxidants like leafy greens, fruits, and fish are beneficial for eye health.

Importance Of Eye Protection

Shielding your eyes from harmful UV rays by wearing sunglasses when outdoors can safeguard them against potential damage. Moreover, using protective eyewear during activities that pose a risk of eye injury is paramount. By taking these preventive measures, you can lower the likelihood of experiencing issues related to retinal breaks, which could lead to the appearance of floaters or flashes.


Treatments For Floaters And Flashes

Vitrectomy Surgery

Vitrectomy surgery is a procedure that involves removing the vitreous gel from the eye and replacing it with a saline solution. This surgery is typically recommended for severe cases of floaters that significantly impair vision. By removing the vitreous gel, which may contain clumps causing floaters, vision clarity can be improved.

Laser Therapy

Laser therapy is another treatment option used to address floaters. The laser helps destroy and get rid of floaters.

Effectiveness Of Medications

Unlike some eye conditions, medications or eye drops are not usually effective in treating floaters and flashes. These treatments do not target the underlying cause of these visual disturbances, which often originate from changes in the vitreous gel within the eye. Therefore, surgical interventions like vitrectomy or laser therapy are more commonly recommended for managing significant symptoms.


Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments for eye floaters and flashes is crucial for maintaining good eye health. By recognizing the risk factors and seeking appropriate treatment, you can effectively manage these visual disturbances. If you are experiencing bothersome floaters and flashes, consult an eye care professional immediately. To book an appointment with Dr. D’Orio Eyecare, call us at 416 656 2020 for our Toronto location, or 416 661 5555 for our North York location. Or book an appointment online at

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