When we look up at a bright blue sky or stare at a plain background, we sometimes notice little “floaters” wiggling around in our field of vision. They sometimes appear as squiggly lines, tiny cobwebs, dots, or even floating strands, and they will come and go. These visions of floaters may look like they’re in front of your eye, but they’re actually inside it. However they may appear, don’t worry! These types of floaters are usually harmless and will disappear with time.
What causes floaters?
As our eyes age, the clear, gel-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye (called the vitreous) starts to undergo changes. When the vitreous thickens or shrinks, it can slightly pull away from the back wall of the eye and can clump up or form strands. As these form, they cast shadows on the back part of your eye that contains the light-sensitive cells, also known as the retina. In turn, floaters become visible in your visual field.
Not all floaters are alike.
As mentioned before, some floaters are harmless and will go away in time. However, concerns rise if multiple floaters appear all at once and out of nowhere, especially if you’re over the age of 45. When this occurs, it is possible that the retina has torn as a result of the shrinking vitreous suddenly and forcefully pulling away from the eye. This can cause a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may appear as new floaters. Torn retinas are serious problems and should be addressed immediately.
Visual flashes are another common experience we may have as we age. Much like floaters, flashes are caused by vitreous gel rubbing or pulling on the eye. Flashes may come and go for several weeks or months, but a sudden onset of repeated flashes can also be a symptom of a torn retina.
If you experience any of the serious sudden flashes or floaters, be sure to contact us immediately to investigate your eye health. As always, make sure to come in for your yearly eye exam to make sure your eyes are in proper working order!