The eye is filled with a clear, jelly-like substance called the vitreous humour that helps maintain the eye’s shape. Debris within the vitreous humour casts a shadow on the retina at the back of the eye, and appears to ‘float’ in your field of vision. Floaters can appear in a variety of shapes and sizes such as black dots, smoke, shadow or hairs. They are more visible against clear, pale backgrounds such as white walls or blue sky. They move when your eye moves in different directions and seem to dart away when you look at them.
Most floaters are small, but larger floaters can be annoying and make activities that require higher concentration–such as reading or driving–more difficult. Although most people naturally experience floaters, they are usually harmless. Eyes that are injured, inflamed, or nearsighted are more likely to get floaters. They can also be caused by a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) or a detachment or tear of the retina (the light sensitive tissue inside the eye). These can also cause symptoms of ‘flashing lights.’ Everyone, especially if you are myopic (short sighted) or play certain contact sports, are at risk for developing flashes and floaters.
The eye can experience the sensation of a flash of light when the vitreous body fibers pull on the retinal nerve cells of your eye. These flashes can appear as small and occur in just one spot, or they can manifest as several across your vision. Flashes and floaters often happen at the same time. If you experience flashes it is always a good idea to contact your eye doctor for an exam. Flashes are one of the symptoms of a retinal detachment, which can be dangerous to your vision.
Most floaters are harmless and fade over time or become less bothersome thus necessitating no treatment. Surgery to remove floaters is almost never required. Floaters can be an indicator of a more serious condition so you should be examined if you have them. Floaters do not usually cause long-term visual impairment, but you should tell your Optometrist if they occur. We recommend that you have an eye test every two years unless your Optometrist advises otherwise.
Floaters and flashes are typically temporary symptoms that fade on their own not necessitating treatment, but if you have them you should follow up with your eye doctor to ensure that the health of your vision is not in jeopardy. We are here to help you with your symptoms. Located at two convenient Denver locations–King Soopers Shopping Center off of South Monaco Parkway in Denver and at the Brentwood Shopping Center on Federal Boulevard–Optical Masters can offer you top-rate eye care services and help you with your eye health goals.