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Flashes, Floaters, and Retinal Tears

Flashes and floaters are bothersome but usually harmless symptoms of the vitreous gel in the eye collapsing or changing with age. However, in some cases, flashes are floaters may herald a serious eye condition.

Anyone can develop floaters, but certain factors are associated with increased risk. Examples include being over 50 years of age, past eye trauma, diabetes, prior eye surgery, inflammation, and being near-sighted.


Floaters usually manifest as black or gray specks or strings in your vision, spots in your vision that move, spots that are more pronounced against a plain background or in bright light. Floaters generally occur when the vitreous gel in the eye collapses with age and are common with age. While floaters are usually painless and harmless, they may also be a sign of retinal tears, diabetes, infection, or inflammation. An detailed (dilated) eye examination is necessary to determine the exact cause and make recommendations.

Flashes can look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vision which may occur when the vitreous gel in the eye tugs on the retina. Some people compare them to seeing "stars." Patient may report seeing flashes on and off for a long period of time and these may eventually stop when the gel releases. Rarely, flashes of light may precede or be associated with retinal tears or inflammation.

See Dr. Reddy if you experience new floaters, more floaters than usual, flashes of light in your eyes, peripheral vision loss, or floaters that bother you.

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