Flashes & Floaters


Many people experience small specks, lines or cloudy spots that appear as shadow like as light enters the eye in just the right way. Floaters occur when the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills your eye, begins to separate from the back of the eye forming clumps or strands. Although they appear to float in front of your eye, they are actually just shadows of the normal cellular material, such as blood cells or proteins floating in your eye and being cast on your retina. Unfortunately, floaters can also be caused by something as dangerous as a retinal hole, tear, or detachment. If you are having new floaters, we recommend coming in for an urgent dilation to determine if your floaters are normal or if you are having a retinal detachment.


You may experience flashes or streaks of light like “lightning” in your peripheral vision. This could be an aura caused by a migraine, or flashes that occur when the vitreous pulls or rubs against the retina. If you are having new, constant or ongoing flashes, we recommend coming in for an urgent dilation to determine if you have developed a hole, tear, or are having a retinal detachment.

You should contact a retinal specialist immediately if you notice an increase in floaters, accompanied by flashes, any changes to your vision, or a dark curtain to your vision. This could be a sign of retinal detachment or other serious eye conditions. If you present with flashes or floaters Dr. Ericksen will dilate your eyes using drops and look for retinal changes that would require prompt referral to our co-managing retinal specialist. Please bring a driver with you to drive you home after the evaluation.

Retinal detachment 

A very serious and vision threatening condition that occurs when the retina detaches from the supportive tissue in the back of the eye. Common symptoms of a retinal detachment may include seeing dark spots, increased floaters, “lightening” flashes of light, a sudden decrease in vision, or a dark curtain across vision. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms of a retinal detachment, it’s extremely important to call a retinal ophthalmologist immediately to receive treatment and prevent permanent vision loss. Retinal detachments typically occur in people over the age of 40, but it can also affect anyone who has suffered from an eye injury, eye disease, extreme nearsightedness (myopia), or as a result of complications after eye surgery.