Eye Floaters and Flashes

Floaters and spots in your vision are usually harmless, but if they occur suddenly, you should seek medical attention.

Lots of people see floaters or black spots in their vision. If you have had floaters for some time, there is generally no need to worry. But if you encounter a sudden increase in floaters, or begin to see flashes in your vision, you should see an eye specialist straight away.

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Symptoms of floaters

Most people who experience floaters can see faint black or grey areas in their vision. Floaters come in all shapes and sizes, such as dots, specks, clouds or cobwebs. You might only notice them when looking at plain, light surface, such as a blank wall or clear sky. Floaters can seem to be stationary, or they may appear to ‘float’ around your field of vision.

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Causes of floaters

They are caused by an irregularity in the vitreous ‘gel’ that fills your eye. The irregularity casts a shadow onto your retina, blocking small areas of your vision, which you perceive as floaters.

Floaters occur naturally as the vitreous gel within your eye thickens or shrinks with age, causing clumps or strands to form. In most cases, floaters are completely harmless, if a little irritating.

In some cases, the shrinking vitreous gel can pull on the retina (the focusing surface at the back of your eye). If this occurs, it can cause a tear in the retina or even detach the retina. This is usually accompanied by a sudden increase in floaters, and sometimes flashes in your vision as well. If you encounter any of these symptoms see an eye specialist immediately.

Symptoms of flashes

The flashing lights that we are concerned about are off to the side and only last a second or so. They are usually most noticeable at night, but you may also see them during the day. They are called Moore's lightening streaks.

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Causes of flashes

As the vitreous ‘gel’ within your eye shrinks, it may pull on the retina (the focusing surface at the back of your eye) and this can cause these flashes of light in your vision to occur.

A retinal tear or detached retina is a serious and potentially sight-threatening condition. It’s therefore essential to seek medical attention as quickly as possible if you encounter flashes in your vision, particularly if they are accompanied by a sudden increase in floaters.


Most floaters are harmless, and don’t require any treatment. However, if you suffer from floaters that seriously affect your vision, they can be removed with a vitrectomy - surgery to remove some or all of the vitreous humour from the eye. Retinal detachment, on the other hand, is a serious condition, and retinal detachment surgery should be carried out as a matter of urgency by a skilled surgeon.

If you suffer from flashes in your vision, or a sudden increase in floaters, call us straight away on 0800 99 20 20 for an urgent appointment with one of our specialists.

Make an appointment

Request an appointment online, phone us on 0800 99 2020, or email us at enquiries@eyeinstitute.co.nz

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