Flashes of light and the appearance of particles floating in the vision (floaters) are symptoms of the eye that commonly occur as a result of age-related changes to the vitreous gel inside our eye. These symptoms can occur in people with healthy eyes. When we are born, the vitreous is a thick and firm substance that is attached to the retina. As we age, the vitreous becomes thinner and more watery. The tissue debris that was once secured in the firm gel can now move around inside the eye, casting shadows on the retina that can often be described as specks, strands, webs or other irregular shapes. These floaters are mostly visible when looking at a plain, white background.
On the other hand, because the retina consists of light receptors, flashes of light are symptoms of a disturbance to the retina. This may occur when the vitreous gel is separating from the retina. It is important to have an eye doctor evaluate you when experiencing these flashes of light, as this can also indicate a retinal break, hole, or tear, which would require immediate treatment. Your doctor can distinguish between harmless flashes of light and floaters, and those that may require treatment for an underlying condition. If normal, these flashes of light and floaters will become less noticeable with time. Regular eye exams are still needed to evaluate for changes.