Eye floaters are not generally harmful. They are the result of aging and the routine processes that come along with it. Most people have seen floaters at one point in their lives. Eye floaters are a common reason that people seek out an eye exam.
Your eye is filled with a jelly-like substance called vitreous. This vitreous is clear and is present from birth. As we age, microscopic fibres inside the vitreous (called collagen fibres) clump together, forming small structures that float around. When light enters the eye, these structures cast a shadow on the retina and form what we see as floaters.
The vast majority of people with eye floaters will never require treatment for it. As annoying as floaters are, most people simply choose to ignore them as best they can.
In rare cases, eye floaters may increase during the development of certain eye diseases. A sudden increase of eye floaters – especially if accompanied by small flashes of light – should be investigated by an Optometrist as soon as possible.
A sudden increase in floaters may be indicative of retinal detachment, a retinal tear, or of bleeding from within the eye.
Like floaters, in most cases eye flashes are harmless and no cause for concern. However, you should still investigate a new instance of flashes. Flashes are less common than floaters and are the result of some type of physical stimulation of the retina.
Often described as small sparks of light, specs of lightning, or floating dots of light, eye flashes can be confusing the first time you experience them. Flashes are generally the result of physical stimulus of the retina; this often occurs when the vitreous becomes more gel-like and tugs on the retina.
Eye flashes may come and go for weeks or months at a time and may be more prevalent when transitioning from light to dark (such as to a dark bedroom from a light bathroom).
See one of our Optometrists if you notice eye flashes, especially if it is the first time. A sudden onset of flashes may be indicative of a retinal tear or detachment and should be investigated immediately.