You may have noticed black spots, specks or even cobweb-like shapes in your field of vision. They are called eye floaters. Floaters are most often seen when looking at a blank wall or background. They are caused by tiny pieces of vitreous gel floating around inside the eye. Movement of the vitreous gel inside the eye may also cause the appearance of sudden flashes of light called eye flashes.
The back of the eye is filled with a gel-like substance called vitreous. As we age, the vitreous liquefies but pieces of gel may be left floating in the eye. What you actually see are not the pieces of vitreous debris themselves, but the shadow cast by the floaters on the retina as light passes through the eye. They are most visible when looking at bright objects or surfaces because they are created by a shadow.
While floaters are mostly harmless and simply annoying, a sudden onset of multiple floaters can be an indication of a more serious eye condition. The vitreous could be pulling away from the retina or there could be a tear in the retina of the eye. A retinal tear could cause the retina itself to detach from the back of the eye. If immediate medical attention isn’t given to the torn or detached retina, vision may be permanently lost in that eye.
In addition to floaters, you may experience sudden flashes of light in your vision. When the vitreous gel in the eye pulls on the retina, you’ll see what looks like flashes of light or even a streak of lightening in your field of vision. Like floaters, they are often harmless, but could be an indication of a more serious condition.
Floaters and flashes are common as we age, but there are also several additional risk factors for floaters or flashes including:
If you notice a sudden onset of floaters or flashes, you should contact your eye doctor immediately to rule out retinal detachment and receive immediate treatment if necessary. If a detaching retina has not caused the floaters or flashes, there is no treatment required. If retinal detachment has occurred, eye surgery may be required to repair the detached retina.
If you experience floaters or flashes, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor to have your eyes examined to rule out more serious conditions. Contact Key-Whitman today to schedule your comprehensive exam.