Leader Heights Eye Center, 309 Leader Heights Road, York, PA 17402 • Phone: (717) 747-5430


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Floaters and Flashes



Small specks, threads or clouds moving in your vision are known as floaters. Most people have some floaters normally but do not notice them until they become numerous or more prominent. If you want to see your own floaters, look up at a sky that is blue or totally gray. They will really stand out.

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In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process. Floaters look like squiggly lines, or floating bugs. They appear to be in front of the eye but are actually floating inside. As we get older, the vitreous (the clear, gel-like substance that fills the inside of the eye) tends to shrink and detach from the retina, forming clumps within the eye. What you see are the shadows these clumps cast on the retina, the light-sensitive nerve layer lining the back of the eye. Also, it is common to see a very large floater shaped like a cobweb or ring. This is a shadow from the tissue that connected the vitreous to the back of the eye.

The appearance of flashing lights comes from the traction of the vitreous gel on the retina at the time of vitreous separation. Flashes look like lightning streaks. You may have experienced the same sensation if you were ever hit in the eye or head and “saw stars.”

Floaters can get in the way of clear vision, often when reading. Try looking up and then down to move the floaters out of the way. While some floaters may remain, many of them will fade over time.

Floaters and flashes are sometimes associated with retinal tears. When the vitreous shrinks, it can pull on the retina and cause a tear. A torn retina is a serious problem. It can lead to a retinal detachment and blindness. If new floaters appear suddenly or you see sudden flashes of light, see your eye doctor promptly.