Eye floaters, flashes, or spots are tiny specks or clouds that appear in the field of vision, usually when looking at an empty white background. A related symptom of floaters and spots is that an object seems to appear and disappear while the eyes travel across the field of vision. Usually, eye floaters and spots are normal throughout the aging process. They are formed when the vitreous gel in the eye, which forms the mass of the eyeball, begins to liquefy as the eye ages. Between the ages of forty and seventy years old, the liquefaction affects the eye such that the vitreous gel pulls away from the back of the eye where it is attached to the retina. This process, called Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD), is completely normal and usually harmless.
Throughout this process, pieces of the vitreous gel that are not yet liquefied can float around in the liquid, causing floaters to be seen. Floaters are usually harmless, and they slowly diminish over the next several months until they are no longer noticeable. During PVD, a sudden flash of light may be seen as the vitreous gel is pulled away from the retina, followed by a shower of floaters. Although this is usually not a cause of concern, it should prompt an eye examination to make sure that the retina has not been torn in the process, or a retinal blood vessel has not be ruptured, both of which can cause floaters or flashes to appear suddenly.
Other causes because posterior vitreous detachment can lead to seeing floaters, flashes, and spots. For example, eye trauma or injury can harm the vitreous gel, causing these phenomena. Migraines can also cause flashes, and sometimes floaters and spots, as can high blood pressure.
Treatments are usually unnecessary for floaters, flashes, and spots. In extreme circumstances, such as when vision is severely impaired, surgery may be necessary to remove the solid pieces from the vitreous gel. The surgery is done through laser treatments, and should be fully approved by an eye care professional.