Floaters, those little dots or threads that float around in your field of vision, are small, and semi-transparent or cloudy particles that float within the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inner portion of your eyes. Floaters are usually harmless and are seen by many of us at one time or another.
They generally look like translucent specks of various shapes and sizes or like cobwebs. They are frequently visible when you are looking at a plain background like a blank white wall, a blue sky, or pages of a book.
Floaters become visible when they fall within the line of sight and cast a shadow on the retina, the inner lining of the eye responsible for sight.
There are a number of possible causes for floaters. They may be small flecks of protein or other matter that were trapped during the formation of your eyes before birth and remain suspended in the clear fluid of the vitreous. Deterioration of the vitreous fluid may also cause floaters to develop. This can be part of the natural aging process and is often not serious, though it can be very annoying. Furthermore, certain eye diseases or injuries can cause floaters.
Floaters are usually harmless and are seen by many of us at one time or another.
Sometimes flashes or streaks of light may appear in your field of vision. This can happen when the vitreous shrinks with age and pulls on the retina. The retinal cells are stimulated to ‘fire’ by this tugging action and cause the perception of light flashes. Vitreous shrinkage can continue and actually detach itself from the retina. This is called a posterior vitreous detachment, or PVD. On rare occasions, this vitreous detachment can cause breaks the retina, potentially leading to a retinal detachment if not surgically repaired.
It is important to have a comprehensive eye health examination immediately if you are experiencing flashes and floaters, or if you become aware of an increase in the number or intensity of flashes or floaters.