Eye floaters are tiny spots in your field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, strings, cobwebs, or squiggly lines that seem to drift aimlessly. While they may seem to be in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside of it. Eye floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous that fills the eye. The vitreous is a clear gel that fills the space between the lens and the retina of the eye. This gel-like substance helps our eyes retain their round shape. As we age, the vitreous slowly starts to shrink and turn to water. As a result, clumps or strands can form resulting in eye floaters. While most eye floaters are usually not a cause for concern, some can be an indicator that something more serious is happening. If you notice a sudden increase in eye floaters, flashes of light or any darkness in your vision, contact an eye doctor immediately. These painless symptoms can be caused by a retinal tear or retinal detachment, which is a medical emergency.
Understanding Eye Floaters
When we are born and throughout our youth, the vitreous has a gel-like consistency. This vitreous is normally attached to the retina, in the back of the eye. But as you age, the gel-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid. When this happens, you may see eye floaters. The floaters in your eyes are seen as shadows by your retina. In most cases, eye floaters are usually not a cause for concern. However, there are instances when eye floaters are a symptom of a serious eye problem. A sudden increase in floaters, possibly accompanied by flashes of light in your side vision (or vision loss), could indicate a retinal detachment. This occurs when any part of the retina, is lifted or pulled from its normal position at the back wall of the eye.
While most eye floaters are usually not a cause for concern, some can be an indicator that something more serious is happening.
Retinal Tears & Retinal Detachments
Retinal tears can occur when a sagging vitreous tugs on the retina with enough force to tear it. Without treatment, a retinal tear can turn into a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment happens when the retina separates from the back of the eye. Untreated, it can cause permanent vision loss. The most common cause of retinal detachment is age-related shrinkage of the vitreous gel, which may lead to tearing at the weak points in the retina.
If you have a detached retina, you may experience:
- Seeing flashes of light
- Eye floaters (sudden onset, or more than normal) suddenly seeing eye floaters for the very first time, or you have more floaters than usual
- A shadow in your vision
- Blurring of your vision
These symptoms can occur gradually or suddenly. The appearance of eye floaters, especially when accompanied by flashes of light or other vision disturbances, could indicate a detached retina or other serious eye problem. If you suddenly see new floaters, or more eye floaters than usual, contact your eye doctor immediately.
If you suddenly see new floaters, or more eye floaters than usual, contact your eye doctor immediately.
Protecting Your Vision
To protect your vision and enjoy a lifetime of good eyesight, it is essential to keep your retinas functioning properly. To do so, ensure you have a comprehensive eye exam every year. A comprehensive eye exam can help detect any eye problems at their early stages when they’re most treatable. If you have questions about our eye exams or need more information, call us today at (619) 222-2020.