The study conducted by researchers from Queen's University and Hotel Dieu Hospital in Kingston has appeared online in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The team found that one out seven patients with the symptom are likely to have a retinal tear or detachment.
Dr. Sanjay Sharma, senior author of the study and a professor of Ophthalmology and Epidemiology at Queen's, said: "If we detect a tear and laser it, we can save people from potentially going blind...But if fluid gets in under the retina and causes it to detach, it may be too late."
He also pointed out that only high-tech equipment and a thorough retinal examination can detect retinal tears since they are really difficult to see.
Dr. Sharma added: "If new floaters are associated with visual loss, a defect in the visual field, or the presence of blood or 'tobacco dust' in the eye jelly, the risk of retinal tear is significantly higher...Since retinal tear can lead to detachment in up to 50 per cent of cases, new floaters and flashes is a medical condition that needs urgent assessment."