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Often, people who have healthy

eyes see floaters. They appear as

spots, lines or cobweb effects,

usually when you look at a plain

surface such as a white wall or a

clear blue sky.  They often appear

when the clear jelly in the main part

of your eye gets older.  Sometimes

the jelly in the main part of your eye

shrinks a little and tugs on the retina

(the light-sensitive layer) at the back

of your eye. This can cause flashes

of light at the edge of your vision.

These differ from the disturbance

of vision that can occur with


If you suddenly notice a shower of

new floaters, or floaters along with

flashes or a dark shadow or “curtain”

in your vision, then you should seek

advice urgently.

These symptoms can mean that the retina is tearing and so we advise you to have a detailed eye examination straight away.  Go to an Accident and Emergency Department if necessary.

The retina is at the back of your eye. It receives the images and sends them to the brain. This is one of the things that enable you to see. If the retina tears, it may come away from the back wall of the eye. This is called retinal detachment. It can result in partial or complete loss of vision.

A tear may be treated by using a laser. If treated quickly, you may have a better chance of full recovery. However, if your retina has become detached, you will need surgery. The operation may restore most of your vision but may come too late for a full recovery.

Look out for:

• flashes or floaters getting worse;

• a black shadow in your vision;

• a sudden cloud of spots;

• a curtain or veil over your vision;


• any sudden loss of vision.

It is especially important to have your eyes examined straight-away if you begin to see flashes or floaters for the first time, if they seem to change or if you notice them in increased numbers.  Prompt examination can reduce the risk of permanent visual loss.  You can be examined as an NHS patient by the Accident and Emergency Department.

If you wish, we can check your eyes quickly and effectively in an emergency appointment here in the practice as a private patient. Just ask any of our team for details.

Information provided by AOP - Association of Optometrists - October 2010

College of Optometrists - Look after your eyes website

Flashes and FloatersDownload Leaflet
Flashes and Floaters
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