If you sometimes notice spots in your vision, resembling black or gray specks, cobwebs or strings, don’t worry. They’re called floaters and most of the time, they’re harmless and quite common. Because they drift about when you move your eyes, it seems like they are darting off in another direction when you attempt to focus on them.
Brought on by age-related changes, they can pop up when the jelly-like substance of your eye – known as vitreous – becomes more liquid. Microscopic fibers located in the vitreous group up and begin casting small shadows on the retina. That’s what those shadows are — floaters. Seeing more than usual? Call your eye doctor immediately to get checked out, especially if they are accompanied by light flashes or a loss of peripheral vision.
Who’s at Risk?
Usually, age is to blame for eye floaters but there are other risk factors as well. You’re at risk of floaters if:
- You are age 50 or older
- You have eye inflammation
- You are nearsighted
- You suffer from diabetic retinopathy
- You have experienced eye trauma
- You have had complications from cataract surgery
What to Look Out For
There are many symptoms that may characterize eye floaters, such as:
- Small shapes in your line of vision resembling specks or transparent strings of floating material
- Spots that move as you dart your eyes around.
- Spots that rapidly exit your visual field when you try to focus on them.
- Spots most noticed when you view a plain bright background, such as a clear blue sky or a white wall
- Small shapes or strings that drift out of your vision eventually after settling down.
Most times, floaters are normal, but get in touch with your eye doctor right away if you see:
- Many more eye floaters than you usually do
- Sudden appearance of new floaters
- Flashes of light
- Darkness in vision to the sides, referred to as peripheral vision loss
Note: all of these symptoms are painless but may be brought on by a retinal tear, occurring with or without retinal detachment. This is a sight-threatening condition requiring immediate attention, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Yes, eye floaters are a normal part of aging but may also arise from diseases or conditions. Here are some common causes of floaters:
- Age-related eye changes. The vitreous can start to partially liquefy so that it pulls away from the interior surface of the eye. As it sags and shrinks, it starts to get string-like and block light passing through the eye. The result? You see tiny shadows.
- Inflammation. Posterior uveitis: this is a fancy term for inflammation that occurs in the layers of the uvea to the rear of the eye. That debris presents as floaters, brought on by inflammatory diseases or infection.
- Bleeding. Bleeding inside the vitreous can happen from hypertension, diabetes, blocked blood vessels or injury, and blood cells resemble floaters.
- Torn retina. A tear can result in retinal detachment. This is the case when fluid accumulates behind the retina and separates it from the back of your eye. Prompt treatment is necessary or vision loss can occur.
Seeing spots? Contact Simon Eye Associates!
If your eye floaters are getting more prominent than usual, stay on the safe side and contact Simon Eye for an appointment. The doctor will perform a thorough eye exam, including eye dilation, to determine the cause.