Ever notice a bug seems to be in your vision? Maybe it looks more like a cobweb? Only to notice when you go to swat it away it seems to be on the inside of your eye?
Floaters occur when collagen fibers within the gel inside our eye clump together. These clumps cast a shadow onto your retina which is what you’re seeing when you notice a floater. They can look like small dots, specs, lines, or cobwebs. They are typically not serious and usually become less noticeable over time.
So when are floaters serious? In up to 10-20% of cases, floaters are a sign of a retinal tear or detachment which is serious. When the collagen fibers in the vitreous clump together the vitreous also undergoes contraction, causing it to shrink and pull away from the retina. In the case of a retinal tear, when the vitreous pulls away from the retina it causes a rip in the retina itself. A retinal tear or detachment needs to be treated right away to avoid permanent damage to your vision. Treatment ranges from a laser procedure to surgery depending on the extent of the damage.
If flashes of light accompany your new floaters this increases the likelihood that you’ve had a retinal tear. Flashes look like lightning streaks in your peripheral vision. Flashes are our brain’s interpretation of the vitreous pulling on the retina and if that pull is too hard it will result in a retinal tear. Some people notice a curtain or a shadow in their side vision as well if they have a retinal detachment.
The only way to differentiate between harmless floaters and ones associated with a retinal detachment is an evaluation from your eye doctor. We will dilate your eyes and take a look with a special light that allows us to see the floaters themselves as well as the retina which we examine for any breaks. All floaters that onset suddenly should be evaluated as soon as possible by your eye doctor.
New and abruptly onset floaters will happen to a lot of us at some point in time and when they do, do not wait to call us to set up an appointment. Our staff is trained to recognize these symptoms and get you in for an appointment right away. We know your vision is important to you and the doctors at Columbia Eye Consultants Optometry are here to do everything necessary to protect that vision.