Eye floaters are tiny spots/specks that appear in one’s field of vision. These are especially noticeable when one looks at a bright background such as the sky. Even though these floaters do not interfere with sight in most cases, they can be really annoying.

There is a lot to be known about floaters. Here are three things everyone should know about them:

1. Symptoms of Floaters

People with floaters report seeing drifting specks, spots or cobwebs in their field of vision. The floaters occur in various forms including:

• Threadlike strands.

• Rings

• Cobwebs

• Squiggly lines

• Black/gray dots.

if you experience such symptoms, it is time to visit your optometrist for a dilated fundus exam as soon as possible as this could be an ocular emergency.

2. What Causes Floaters?

In most cases, floaters are caused gel (vitreous) separation. This is when small portions of the vitreous in one’s eye break away. This gel-like substance is located within the inner back part of the eye. The break in the vitreous is mainly attributed to age as one of the main factors.

When young, the vitreous retains a gel-like consistency, but as one ages, the gel-like consistency is lost and the vitreous liquefies to form a watery center. Floaters occur when undissolved gel particles float around this liquid center. These particles are in different shapes and sizes.

Floaters appear when one looks at a bright background such as the sky or a computer screen. As the light enters the eyes, these floating pieces of debris cast a shadow on the retina, creating the tiny shadows that are noticeable in one’s vision.

3. Are Floaters Dangerous?

Most people above the age of 70 experience floaters. Even though not every case of floaters is serious, a shower of floaters or floaters that are accompanied by flashes of light are a cause for concern.

Retinal detachment

These symptoms mainly occur when the vitreous is pulling away from the retina. As the vitreous pulls on the retina, a small tear occurs in the delicate retina. Once the hole has formed, the vitreous can enter through the hole and force the retina further away from the inner lining of the back of the eye. This leads to a condition referred to as retinal detachment.

Retinal detachment is very serious as it could lead to damage of sight. It is therefore very important to seek immediate treatment for retinal detachment. Treatment involves eye surgery to reattach the retina and prevent permanent vision loss.

Retinal detachment affects 1 in every 10,000 people annually and is more common in people with myopia (short-sightedness).

Light flashes are caused by non-visual stimulation of the retina. These occur when it is being pushed, torn or detached. The flashes come in the form of random sparks, flickering lights or lightning bolts. Flashes are an indication of serious underlying problems and should never be ignored.

Diagnosis of Floaters

Regular eye exams are recommended. If you have floaters, your optometrist can diagnose it. This could be very vital as eye floaters could be an indication of serious problems such as retinal detachment, retinal tear or retinopathy of diabetes.

Other diseases that have also been linked to eye floaters include sarcoidosis, tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, syphilis and acute retinal necrosis. An eye exam could help save you from a more serious health problem. Visit our one of our optometrists in Scarborough (Toronto) today if you experience any symptoms associated with floaters.