What are those spots in front of my vision?
Almost everyone experiences small specks in their vision that sometimes can appear as dust, insects or cobwebs. These specks are known as eye floaters and are more prominent in certain light conditions, such as a bright sunny day or against a white computer screen. You also may notice that the floaters don’t stay still and that they are constantly moving. That is because floaters often move with eye movements.
Although annoying, ordinary eye floaters that have been in your vision for many years are usually nothing to worry about. A new floater, a sudden increase in floaters, or floaters accompanied with other changes in your vision can be warning signs of serious eye disease or injury and should be evaluated by your eye doctor as soon as possible. (see below for more details).
Why do we get floaters?
The back of the eye consists of a clear gel-like substance called the vitreous. As we age, the vitreous shrinks and becomes more liquefied and cellular debris and imperfections move around more freely and cast shadows on the retina in certain light conditions. This is what we perceive as floaters.
When are floaters an emergency?
If you see a shower of floaters accompanied with flashing lights or a curtain over vision, you should immediately see your Optometrist. Any new floater that suddenly appears in your vision should also be checked.
If these symptoms (flashes and floaters) occur all of a sudden, it could suggest two different things. First, more commonly, the vitreous may be detaching from the back of the eye – that is called a posterior vitreous detachment. Second, the retina may be torn, which can lead to a retinal detachment.
A retinal detachment can lead to permanent vision damage or blindness, sometimes even within 24 to 72 hours if it is not treated. Treatment can be highly successful if a retinal detachment is detected early. If you experience these symptoms it is considered a medical emergency and you should see your Optometrist for a dilated eye examination as soon as possible.
Who is at risk for a retinal detachment?
A retinal detachment can occur at any age, even in healthy individuals, but it is more common after the age of 40. Retinal detachments are more likely to occur in individuals that have high nearsightedness, a history of eye surgery or eye injury, or a family history of retinal detachment.
Visit your eye doctor regularly
Regular eye exams with your Optometrist are the best way to ensure that your eyes stay healthy. An eye exam is an essential part of your overall health routine. Remember, clear vision begins with healthy eyes!