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Some people can see certain tiny spots, specks, lines, or shapes that appear to float in front of the eyes. But when these people reach out to touch these floating objects, they touch nothing. While the objects look like they are a distance from the face, they are actually in the vitreous, or gel-like portion of the eye. They are the shadows of cells and fibres in the vitreous.

An occasional sighting is nothing to worry about. But once they become more frequent, and if there are eye flashes, which are bursts of light, accompanying them, or if there a sudden drop in vision, it is time to see your eye doctor.

Causes of Eye Floaters and Eye Flashes

As one ages, the vitreous gel shrinks. This shrinking results in tiny clumps in the eyes. The clumps cast shadows onto the retina, and the result is shadowy forms called eye floaters.

Those most likely to experience this are older people, people who are very near-sighted or people who have had cataract surgery.

Eye flashes are mainly caused by the vitreous gel remaining attached to the retina while it shrinks. The gel pulls on the retina, causing the retina’s nerve cells to move in a way that causes the eye flashes.

Eye floaters and eye flashes symptoms

These eye floaters appear in different ways, such as:

  • Squiggly lines
  • Black or grey dots
  • Threadlike strands
  • Cobwebs
  • Ring shape

Eye flashes can appear as:

  • Visible bursts or streaks of light
  • Maybe one burst in one area, or several over a wide area.


Most times, these eye floaters are not harmful and you can move them out of your field of vision by looking up or down. However, if they present with eye flashes, there might be the challenge of retinal detachment, a retinal tear, or bleeding within the eye. These conditions, if left unchecked, can lead to vision loss. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice:

  • A sudden increase in the number of eye floaters
  • Eye pain along with eye floaters
  • Eye floaters after eye surgery or eye trauma
  • Loss of peripheral vision with flashes or floaters

Because of the severity of the damage they can cause, see your eye doctor if you see eye floaters frequently or if you experience any sort of eye flashes.