Floaters and Flashing Lights in the Field of Vision

Floaters and Flashing Lights in the Field of Vision
Floaters and Flashing
Lights in the Field of Vision
Patient Information Leaflet
Ophthalmic Day Surgical Unit
01253 957420
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Floaters and Flashing Lights
in the Field of Vision
What are floaters?
Floaters are like “cobwebs” or specks that float
about in your field of vision. They are small, dark,
shadowy shapes that can look like spots, threadlike strands, or squiggly lines. They seem to move
as your eyes move, and usually drift a little bit.
Floaters occur when the vitreous slowly shrinks
(Vitreous = a gel-like substance that fills the
back part of the eye). As the vitreous shrinks, it
becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can
cast tiny shadows on the retina. These appear as
In most cases, floaters are part of the natural
ageing process and do not signify anything
serious. They can be annoying at first, but
eventually tend to “settle” at the bottom of the
eye. They become less noticeable with time, but
do not go away completely. They can become
apparent when looking at something like a plain
wall or the sky.
What are flashing lights?
Sometimes the vitreous, suddenly pulls away
from the retina (Retina = the sensitive layer at the
back of the eye). This causes many new floaters to
appear suddenly, often accompanied by flashes of
light. The flashes may appear like a sudden flash
of a camera or a momentary arc of light. They
occur because of the vitreous tugging or rubbing
on the retina.
What is vitreous detachment?
When the vitreous-gel filling the back of the eye
separates from the light sensitive layer called the
retina, it is called a ‘‘vitreous detachment’’. In most
cases this is not sight-threatening and requires
no treatment. However, a sudden increase in
floaters, or new floaters, possibly accompanied by
light flashes or loss of side vision, could indicate a
retinal tear or retinal detachment.
A retinal detachment occurs when any part of
the retina, is lifted away from its normal position
on the back wall of the eye. A retinal detachment
is a serious condition and should be considered
an emergency. If left untreated, it can lead to
permanent visual impairment or even blindness.
Vitreous the gel filling the
back part of the eye
Retina the sensitive layer at
the back of the eye
1. Sudden increase in floaters or new floaters accompanied by
2. Flashing lights and/or
3. Curtains across the vision or loss of side vision,
Please contact your Doctor/Optician as soon
as possible, who will refer you to the eye
department urgently.
If out of hours you are strongly advised to
attend your local Accident and Emergency
Useful contact details
Opthalmic Day Surgical Unit
01253 957420
Hospital Switchboard: 01253 300000
Patient Relations Department
The Patient Relations Department offer impartial advice and deal with
any concerns or complaints the Trust receives. You can contact them via:
Tel: 01253 955589
email: patient.relations@bfwh.nhs.uk
You can also write to us at:
Patient Relations Department, Blackpool Victoria Hospital,
Whinney Heys Road, Blackpool FY3 8NR
Further information is available on our website: www.bfwh.nhs.uk
This leaflet is evidence based wherever the appropriate evidence
is available, and represents an accumulation of expert opinion and
professional interpretation.
Details of the references used in writing this leaflet are available on request from:
Procedural Document and Leaflet Coordinator 01253 953397
Approved by:
Date of Publication:
Reference No:
Review Date:
Eye Clinic
BFWH91 - PL/252v1
Mr Shreyas Raj
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