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What are Flashes & Floaters?

What are floaters?

Often, people who have healthy eyes see floaters. They appear as
spots, lines or cobweb effects, usually when you look at a plain surface
such as a white wall or a clear blue sky. They often appear when the
clear jelly in the main part of your eye gets older.

What are flashes?

Sometimes the jelly in the main part of your eye shrinks a little and tugs
on the retina (the light-sensitive layer) at the back of your eye. This can
cause flashes of light at the edge of your vision. These differ from the
disturbance of vi sion that can occur with migraine.

When should I be concerned?

If you suddenly notice a shower of new floaters, or floaters along with
flashes or a dark shadow or “curtain” in your vision, then you should
seek advice urgently. These symptoms can mean that the retina is
tearing. Go to an Accident and Emergency Department if necessary.

What will happen if the retina tears?

The retina is at the back of your eye. It receives the images and sends
them to the brain. This is one of the things that enable you to see. If the
retina tears, it may come away from the back wall of the eye. This is
called retinal detachment. It can result in partial or complete loss of

How is retinal detachment treated?

A tear may be treated by using a laser. If treated quickly, you may have
a better chance of full recovery. However, if your retina has become
detached, you will need surgery. The operation may restore most of
your vision but may come too late for a full recovery.

Look out for:

  • flashes or floaters getting worse
  • a black shadow in your vision
  • a sudden cloud of spots
  • a curtain or veil over your vision
  • any sudden loss of vision.

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