Eye Health: Flashes and Floaters


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


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 the eye. This can cause flashes of light at the edge of your vision. These differ from the disturbance of vision that can occur with migraine.

When should I be concerned?

If you suddenly notice a shower of new floaters, floaters with flashes or a dark shadow or ‘curtain’ over your vision, then you should seek advice urgently from an Optometrist or an accident and emergency department as these symptoms can mean that the retina is tearing.

What will happen if the retina tears?

The retina is at the back of your eye. It receives the images and sends them to your 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 and can result in partial or complete loss of vision.

How is retinal detachment treated?

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

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Existing 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

Consult an Optometrist without delay if you notice any of these symptoms. If it is not possible to consult an Optometrist, go to an Accident and Emergency department.

For any further information, or to consult an Optometrist here if you are concerned, please call in to the practice or call us on 029 2054 9563.

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