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Floaters & Flashes

Small floating dark shapes and small flashes of light can occur as a normal part of the ageing process.

As your eyes age, it’s not unusual to see small dark shapes that seem to float in your field of vision. These ‘floaters’ are particles in the vitreous (jelly-like) substance that fills your eye. They’re usually harmless and will come and go over the years. You may also see small flashes of light, which are caused by the vitreous part of your eye pulling on the retina (the ‘camera film’ at the back of your eye).

Sometimes, floaters and flashes occur together. The cause can be the vitreous part of the eye shrinking and pulling away from the retina. Sometimes this can cause the retina to tear and, in severe cases, the retina can become detached from the inside wall of the eye. This is a serious threat to sight and requires surgery.


Usually, floaters and flashers are annoying but not harmful and treatment is not necessary. However, if you have a sudden burst of new floaters and flashes it may be a sign of serious eye problems and you should see an eye specialist immediately. Retinal tears can be treated under local anaesthesia, either with a laser or by cryotherapy (freezing treatment). Although floaters can be surgically removed, we don’t recommend it unless they are large enough to obstruct your vision, for example when you’re driving.