If you have ever noticed debris or tiny dots or specks in front of your eyes that practically appear like lint, you have seen floaters. Normally, the tiny dots that crop up in your field of view are harmless. You can see them better against a blue sky or a blank, light colored wall.
What you are seeing when you spot floaters are cells and/or gel clumps from the interior of the vitreous – it is the jelly-like material from the interior of the eye. Floaters can look like webs, strands, or specks. They appear gray because they are shadows of what floaters as they are cast against the light-sensitive retina in the posterior of the eye.
Floaters & Spots – Symptoms
When you have an eye examination, your doctor can see the floaters located inside your eyes. You do not have to be aware of them for them to be there. The floater will be light to dark gray because it is the shadow of the gel or clump of material moving around in the vitreous and casting a shadow on the retina.
What causes floaters and spots?
Some floaters are present since birth as part of the eye’s development, and others occur over time. During middle age, the gel-like fluid inside of the eye starts to turn into liquid and it will subsequently contract. Strands or clumps can form inside the vitreous, and this can lead to a condition called posterior vitreous detachment: a common source of spots and floaters.
The following individuals are more likely to experience floaters in their field of view:
- Individuals who have endured cataract surgery.
- Individuals who have had laser surgery.
- Individuals with eye inflammation.
- Those who have myopia or nearsightedness.
Spots & Floaters – Treatment
Usually, you do not have to do anything about floaters or spots. They may annoy you, but it is only temporary. The issue tends to diminish over a short period of time. Some people have requested surgical removal of the floaters, but the approval for such is rare.
Seeing Flashes of Light
Sometimes people will suddenly see flashes of light without a light source present that can be cited as the cause. Often times, older individuals see flashes of light – this is due to the stimulation of photoreceptors, which occurs when the light-sensitive retina gets pulled on by the gel-like fluid within the vitreous. Flashes of light may be a warning signal that something is amiss and should be examined by a doctor – they could be indicative of a retina that is detaching from the back of the eye. If you do not treat the condition, it can result in total vision loss.
Sometimes people see light flashes that seem to look like heat waves, similar to those that rise up off hot pavement on hot, sunny days. The lights can appear in one eye or both and tend to last 10 to 20 minutes before they disappear. If followed by a headache, it is a migraine. If no headache follows, it has called an ocular migraine. The flashes of light in these events occur due to blood vessels spasms in the individual’s brain. If you experience flashes of light and a lot of floaters or additional disturbances of vision, it can be indicative of the detachment of the retina or another negative eye condition. If you all of a sudden note new floaters, you need to see a vision specialist immediately.