Many people see floaters or black spots in their vision.
If you have had eye floaters for some time there is generally no need to worry; however, if you encounter a sudden increase in floaters or begin to see flashes in your vision you should see an eye specialist straight away.
Small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision are called floaters. Most floaters are not dangerous and are caused by tiny pieces of tissue inside of the eye. When light hits these pieces of tissue it creates shadows on the retina, that appear to float across your field of vision. It may appear that these specks are on the front surface of your eye, but they are actually inside. In most cases floaters are no cause for alarm and no treatment is necessary, however a sudden increase in new floaters may indicate a problem and an eye examination is recommended if this occurs.
Symptoms of eye floaters
Most people who experience floaters can see feint black or grey areas in their vision. Floaters come in all shapes and sizes such as:
• tiny black dots
• small, shadowy dots
• larger cloud-like spots
• long, narrow strands
You might only notice them when looking at plain, light surfaces; such as a blank wall or clear sky. Eye floaters can seem to be stationary or they may appear to ‘float’ around your field of vision.
Causes of eye floaters
Floaters are caused by an irregularity in the vitreous ‘gel’ that fills your eye. The irregularity casts a shadow onto your retina, blocking small areas of your vision, which you perceive as floaters.
Floaters occur naturally as the vitreous gel within your eye thickens or shrinks with age, causing clumps or strands to form. In most cases, floaters are completely harmless, if a little irritating.
In some cases, the shrinking vitreous gel can pull on the retina (the focusing surface at the back of your eye). If this occurs it can cause a macular hole or even detach the retina. This is usually accompanied by a sudden increase in floaters, and sometimes flashes in your vision as well. If you encounter any of these symptoms you should see an eye specialist immediately.
Symptoms of flashes in your vision
Flashing lights or streaks within your vision are usually most noticeable at night, but you may also see them during the day. The sensation is very similar to ‘seeing stars’ after a knock to the head.
Causes of flashes in your visio
As the vitreous ‘gel’ within your eye shrinks, it may pull on the retina (the focusing surface at the back of your eye). If the retina is peeled away from the back of the eye, it can cause flashes of light in your vision to occur.
A retinal tear or detached retina is a serious and potentially sight-threatening condition. It is therefore essential to seek medical attention as quickly as possible if you encounter flashes in your vision, particularly if they are accompanied by a sudden increase in floaters.
Treatment for eye floaters and flashes
Most floaters are harmless and do not require any treatment; however, if you suffer from floaters that seriously affect your vision they can often be removed with a vitrectomy. This is a surgical operation to remove the vitreous humour in your eye along with any floating debris and replace it with a saline (salty) solution.
Retinal detachment on the other hand is a serious condition and retinal detachment surgery should be carried out as a matter of urgency by a skilled eye surgeon. Without surgery a total loss of vision is almost certain.