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Home » Eye Care Services » Clear Eye Floaters and Flashing Lights in the Eyes

Clear Eye Floaters and Flashing Lights in the Eyes

What are clear eye floaters?

close eyeClear eye floaters are the small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. When looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky, clear eye floaters are more noticeable. Clear eye floaters can appear as different shapes such as little dots, circles, lines, clouds, or cobwebs.

In actuality, clear eye floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. What you see are the shadows they cast on the retina, which is the layer of cells lining the back of the eye that senses light and allows you to see. This is why clear eye floaters are also called retinal floaters occasionally. Treatment for eye floaters varies depending on the intensity and longevity of clear eye floaters, and floater removal by surgery is rarely recommended.

What causes clear eye floaters?

When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel of the eye may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. The vitreous gel that thickens may pull away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a common cause of clear eye floaters. Floater removal and treatment for eye floaters may be unnecessary, but clear eye floaters and post vitreous detachment (PVD) is more common in people who:

  • are nearsighted
  • have undergone cataract operations
  • have had YAG laser surgery of the eye
  • have had inflammation inside the eye

The appearance of eye floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly. You should contact your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) right away if you suddenly develop new floaters and see what type of treatment for eye floaters or vitreous floaters treatment is best for you. Floater removal by surgery is rarely recommended.

Are clear eye floaters ever serious?

Floaters in your eyes and flashing lights in the eyes become more common as we grow older. Vitreous floaters treatment or other treatment for eye floaters may not be needed because not all clear eye floaters and flashing lights in the eyes are serious. However, you should always have a medical eye examination by an ophthalmologist to make sure there has been no damage to your retina. The retina can tear if the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the wall of the eye to form retinal floaters. This sometimes causes a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters. A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment.

You should see your ophthalmologist as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms:

  • even one new clear eye floater appears suddenly
  • you see sudden flashing lights in the eyes
  • you notice any loss of side vision

Generally, clear eye floaters are harmless and fade over time or become less bothersome, so there is typically no required treatment for floaters in the eye. However, even if you have had clear eye floaters for years, you should schedule an eye examination with your ophthalmologist if you notice new ones. While eye floater removal is not typically recommended, you may need vitreous floaters treatment or another treatment for eye floaters.

Is floater removal an option?

Most clear eye floaters do not need floater removal and many times you do not even need treatment for the floaters in the eye. Clear eye floaters that are not associated with retinal damage, or retinal floaters, are hardly ever removed. Floater removal requires taking out the vitreous gel in the back of the eye as an extreme vitreous floaters treatment. Floater removal is a surgical procedure done in the operating room and can be a complicated eye operation. While some may claim to treat clear eye floaters with a laser, this treatment for eye floaters only moves the floaters around and risks damage to the retina.

The appearance of clear eye floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly. Always contact your ophthalmologist right away to schedule a complete eye exam and discuss treatment for floaters in the eye if you suddenly develop new ones.

What causes flashing lights in the eyes?

When the vitreous gel rubs or pulls on the retina, you may see what look like flashing lights in the eyes or lightning streaks. You may have experienced this same sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and seen “stars.”

The flashing lights in the eyes can appear off and on for several weeks or months. As we grow older, it is more common to experience flashes in the eyes. While floaters and flashes treatment is not always necessary, you should contact your ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam if you notice the sudden appearance of flashing lights in the eyes in case the retina has been torn.


migraineSome people experience flashing lights in the eyes that appear as jagged lines or “heat waves” in both eyes, often lasting 10 to 20 minutes. These types of flashes are usually caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain, which is called a migraine.

If a headache follows the flashes, it is called a migraine headache. However, jagged lines or “heat waves” can occur without a headache. In this case, the light flashes are called ophthalmic migraine, or a migraine variant. Your ophthalmologist will often work with a neurologist, your family physician or internist to further evaluate these symptoms.

What does a comprehensive eye exam look like?

When an ophthalmologist examines your eyes for floaters and flashes treatment or migraines, your pupils may be dilated with eye drops. During this painless examination, your ophthalmologist will perform a complete eye exam to carefully observe all areas of your eye, including the retina and vitreous, and to check for any clear eye floaters. If your eyes are dilated, you may need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home afterward. Treatment for floaters in the eye and flashing lights in the eyes, as well as migraines, are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Why are complete eye exams important for everyone?

Eye disease can occur at any age, and many eye diseases do not cause symptoms until damage has occurred. Since most blindness is preventable if diagnosed and treated early, regular medical examinations by an ophthalmologist are very important. Choosing an ophthalmologist for your regular eye exams is important because only an ophthalmologist (MD or osteopath) can provide total eye care–medical, surgical and optical, as well as spotting and addressing clear eye floaters, migraines, and flashing lights in the eyes.

Our eye care office provides comprehensive medical and surgical services for eye diseases, treatment for floaters in the eye and retinal floaters, as well as regular eye care, prescription glasses, and contact lenses. Please feel free to recommend us to your friends and family.

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