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Are you seeing floaters or flashes of light?

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Floaters look like specks or squiggly threads that glide across your vision, and flashes appear like flickering sparks. Many people see floaters and flashes regularly and simply get used to having them around. Generally, both of these visual disturbances are harmless. However, they can sometimes be a sign of trouble – especially when a bunch of new floaters appears suddenly. Our eye doctors at Village Eye Centre, can determine if floaters are problematic during an eye exam at our eye clinics near you in North Edmonton, Downtown Edmonton, and Sherwood Park, Alberta.

What causes floaters and flashes?

A floater is composed of a tiny cluster of cells or a speck of protein that’s stuck in the vitreous gel of your eye. This clear gel (like raw egg white) fills about two-thirds of your eyeball, and it is the pathway for light entering your eye through the lens. As you age, the vitreous gel shrinks and becomes stringy – leading to the strands and clusters.

When you see a floater, you are actually seeing the shadow cast on your retina by these cells. As your eyes move, so do your floaters. Once your eyes stop moving, they just drift. Many people describe them as zooming away whenever they try to look at them directly.

Flashes of light happen when the vitreous gel rubs, pulls, or bumps against your retina.

Who sees floaters and flashes?

A lot of people! Approximately one-quarter of people see floaters by their 60s, and that number rises to about two-thirds of all people who are 80 years old.

Risk factors for floaters and flashes of light include:

  • Normal aging
  • Being nearsighted
  • Having had cataract surgery
  • A previous eye injury
  • Diabetes

When are floaters a sign of danger?

The sudden onset of new floaters may indicate retinal disease. The vitreous is connected to the retina, where images are captured and conveyed to the brain via the optic nerve. Shrinking vitreous sometimes tugs on the retina and pulls away from it. This is a normal occurrence, but in about one in six people, it will lead to a retinal tear. Fluid from inside the eye can then leak through the tear and cause a retinal detachment, which requires emergency eye care to prevent permanent vision loss. Contact an eye doctor near you immediately If you experience:

  • New onset of floaters and flashes
  • A gradual shading of vision from one side
  • Fast decline in your central vision

Learning to live with floaters

Over time, most people don’t notice their floaters. But if they become very bothersome, consult with our eye doctors in North Edmonton, Downtown Edmonton, and Sherwood Park, Alberta, for tips on how to cope by shifting them out of sight.


At Village Eye Centre, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 587-410-5920 or book an appointment online to see one of our North Edmonton eye doctors.

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