Floaters & Flashing

Floaters are relatively common and usually harmless, which are more noticeable against a bright backgrounds. They appear as little black or grey specs or spots that seem to float around within the periphery of your eye.

Most eye floaters are caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid. Microscopic fibers within the vitreous tend to clump and can cast tiny shadows on your retina known as “floaters”.

Flashing is the occasional “flashing” of light you can see in the corners of your vision, most commonly when gazing for long periods.

Neither of these are cause for concern unless they increase dramatically in size or frequency. If you notice a sudden increase in eye floaters, contact an eye specialist immediately — especially if you also see light flashes or lose your peripheral vision. These can be symptoms of an emergency that requires prompt attention.

Floaters have the following features:

  • They can be of varying shapes and sizes and look like black dots, shadows, hairs or cobwebs.
  • They’re more prominent against pale and light backgrounds, especially in sunlight.
  • They can move when your eye moves and dart away when you look at them.

Flashes have the following features:

  • They can look like small sparkles, lightning, fireworks or streaks of light.
  • Tend to be in the extreme corners of the eye.
  • Last for undefined amounts of time and can randomly come and go.
  • Always check one eye at a time, with the other eye covered.

Flashes and floaters are common among people over the age of 65 and those who are short sighted.

As we get older the ball of jelly inside our eyes (the vitreous humour) changes – it shrinks and pulls away from the retina, creating small gaps which cast shadows onto the retina manifesting themselves as floaters. Sometimes the vitreous humour can pull on the retina itself, physically stimulating the retina, usually leading to flashes.

Sometimes this pulling process can cause the retina to rip or tear. This is what causes the vast increase in floaters and sometimes flashes and can be the start of a retinal detachment and needs urgent attention.

Flashes and floaters can sometimes be caused by other eye diseases.

Flashes and floaters are harmless and, while irritating, no treatment is usually needed. They should always be monitored, mentioned and discussed with an Optometrist during an eye examination. In many cases they will get less noticeable on their own as the brain adjusts to the changes in the eyes.

However, you should consult your Optometrist immediately if you experience:

  • A sudden increase in the number of floaters or if they start to look different – especially if associated with increases in flashing lights.
  • See more noticeable floaters or they appear in the second eye too.
  • A change in vision or floaters that make day-to-day activity difficult, such as driving or reading.
  • Grey areas, shadows or a curtain effect appearing in your vision.

The above could be signs of a more serious issue such as a retinal detachment or a retinal tear and medical assistance should be sought immediately.

If you notice flashes or floaters you should discuss it with your Optometrist, who will check the back of your eye, the vitreous humour and your peripheral fields of vision. They may need to use dilating eye drops to get a better view of the retina. If they suspect that there may be a more serious cause then they will refer you to the hospital.

We recommend you have an Eye Test at least every two years, regardless of symptoms and/or conditions.

Concerned About Eye Health
or Symptoms?

If you’re concerned about your eye health in any way, the first step is to have an eye examination at your preferred optician’s. At Optical People, we treat all of our patients with the utmost care and you can have full confidence in our team of friendly optical experts. You can book an eye test at a date and time that’s convenient for you, either online or over the phone.

Call 02475 094660

Call any time monday to friday 09:00-17:30 and Saturday 09:00-17:00


Choose a date and time suitable for you. There's nothing to pay until pay after your appointment

Take our online eye health test quiz

Our online eye health quiz is a great way to identify potential issues or just confirm that everything is actually ok. Take this two minute test and if you’re concerned in any way, you can book an eye test appointment or call and speak to our qualified optical people.

Opening times Mon-Fri:  9am – 5:30pm
Saturday: 9am – 5pm
Sunday: Closed

12 Market Place, Nuneaton, CV11 4EE

COVID-19 (19th July 2021): We continue to observe all relevant guidelines with your health and safety and that of our team’s as our top priority.