You may have heard about eye floaters or even experienced them yourself. What are they and why do they occur? And can they be prevented?
First, it’s important to understand how they’re defined. Generally speaking, they are spots in your vision that appear like black or gray specks, strings, or cobwebs in the corner of your eye. They tend to drift about when you move your eyes and appear to disappear when you try to look at them directly.
Although floaters may cause concern, you likely don’t have much to worry about — most eye floaters are caused by age-related changes that occur inside your eye. Microscopic fibers within the jelly-like fluid inside your eye tend to clump and can cast tiny shadows on your retina, resulting in floaters.
What to Watch For
If you’re a younger person and notice a sudden increase in eye floaters, contact your eye doctor as soon as possible. It’s especially critical to watch for light flashes or loss of peripheral vision, as these can be symptoms of an emergency that requires prompt attention.
While floaters are typically caused by the aging process, they can be a sign of your eyes asking for help in some cases. For example, you may have bleeding in the eye. Diabetes, hypertension, blocked blood vessels and injury can all be culprits. Blood cells are seen as floaters.
Floaters can also indicate a torn retina in some cases. Without treatment, a retinal tear may lead to retinal detachment — an accumulation of fluid behind the retina that causes it to separate from the back of your eye. Untreated retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss, so it’s important to be cognizant of any major changes in vision.
Other Risk Factors
Eye surgeries and eye medications can be factors, too. Certain medications that are injected into the eye’s fluids can cause air bubbles to form. These bubbles can appear as shadows until your eye absorbs them. Certain surgeries add silicone oil bubbles into the eye that can also be seen as floaters.
Beyond these variables, certain people are more at risk for eye floaters. These factors include:
- Age over 50
- Eye trauma
- Complications from cataract surgery
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Eye inflammation
When in doubt, see an eye doctor for additional help and guidance if floaters become more frequent and your vision is impaired. An experienced optometrist can work with your medical team to accurately diagnose and treat a number of health conditions. With a preventive approach to care, you can preserve eye health and vision as you age. Schedule a comprehensive eye exam today and enjoy peace of mind.