Flashers and Floaters: What Do They Mean?

 Brown eye looking upMost people experience harmless flashers and floaters from time to time, although an increase in these visual disturbances can be a sign of serious eye problems. The doctors at Broberg Eye Care provide screening and treatment for patients who experience a sudden change in flashers and floaters. If you experience flashers and floaters, we recommend coming in to our convenient Austin, TX office to see Dr. Peter Broberg, Dr. Halsey SettleDr. William McGlathery, or Dr. Ximena de Sabra for an eye exam. To schedule an appointment, contact our office today.

What Causes Flashers and Floaters?

Flashers are bright spots or lines in your field of vision, typically lasting just a few moments. These often result from stimulation to your retina, which interprets light and sends nerve impulses to the brain. The appearance of flashers and floaters can result from:

  • Ocular trauma, such a blow to the eye
  • Vitreous gel pulling on the retina
  • A side effect of blood vessel spasms in the brain, which may be caused by a migraine headache

Floaters are thin lines or small spots that move through your vision. Many people see floaters occasionally, but they are usually not a cause for concern. They typically result from changes in your eye’s vitreous, the collagen and water gel that circulates within your eye. In younger patients, the vitreous has a firm, jelly-like consistency. However, with age, the vitreous breaks down and takes on a liquid consistency. During this process, thicker parts of the vitreous may glide through the thinner center, casting shadows on the retina and appearing as darker lines or spots. Floaters can also occur when the vitreous separates from the retina, which usually does not harm the eye, but may cause retinal tear or detachment, a serious condition that could result in blindness.

When to Seek Treatment

In most cases, flashers and floaters are not a serious issue. However, since they could be a symptom of retinal tear or detachment, it is important to pay attention to them and seek treatment if you notice sudden changes. Flashers and floaters may be cause for concern if:

  • They suddenly increase in number, consistency, or size, especially if you see both floaters and flashers
  • Your peripheral vision begins to darken
  • You spontaneously experience obstructed, blurry, or hazy vision
  • You have recently experienced a severe eye injury, as this could be an indication of structural damage
  • You have diabetes, extreme myopia (nearsightedness), or ocular inflammation, as these increase your risk for retinal tear and detachment
  • You have previously had laser eye procedures or cataract surgery, as these also raise your risk for retinal issues


Patients who develop flashers and floaters due to a torn or detached retina may need to undergo surgical treatment, usually within a few days, to prevent vision loss. Our doctors can refer you to a respected local retinal specialist.

If, like most patients, your floaters and flashers are not an indication of a serious condition, they will probably diminish over time. If these visual disturbances are seriously impacting your comfort or vision, a vitrectomy can be performed. During this procedure, a surgeon will remove your vitreous and replace it with sterile saltwater.

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Contact our office today to schedule an appointment with one of our ophthalmologists.  

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