Floaters are very common. They often appear as squiggles or tiny specks and are usually easier to see when looking at a white computer screen, a clear sky, or a plain background.
For the most part, floaters are harmless. However, if you notice many of them all of a sudden, it may be a sign of a retinal detachment that can threaten your vision.
Keep reading to learn more about floaters, how they are linked to a retinal detachment, and what you do if you see them!
What are Floaters?
As their name suggests, floaters are tiny, black, brown, or clear shapes that float across your vision. Floaters are typically caused by age-related changes in the vitreous humor.
The vitreous is the gel-like substance that fills the back of the eye. Among other things, it helps your eye maintain its shape.
As you grow older, the vitreous may start to shrink or thicken and form small protein strands or clumps inside your eyes. These strands create floaters which move around in your eye.
As light hits these clumps, they can cast shadows on the retina. These shadows are what you see as floaters moving in your field of vision.
Although floaters seem to be in front of your eye, they’re actually floating inside of it. Floaters usually drift aimlessly and dart away whenever you try to look directly at them.
Usually, floaters may appear in different sizes and shapes, such as:
- Squiggly lines
- Black dots
Although floaters are typically harmless, they can be a sign of an impending retinal detachment. So if you notice new ones, it’s important to visit your eye doctor.
What is a Retinal Detachment?
Your retina can become detached when it pulls away from the back of the eye. The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the eye wall.
It converts light entering your eye into electrical signals. The signals are then sent to the brain via the optic nerve, where they are converted into the images you see.
A retinal detachment can be the result of several reasons. One common cause of a retinal detachment is when the vitreous separates from your retina, a condition called posterior vitreous detachment.
Sometimes, the vitreous may pull too hard from the retina and cause a retinal tear. Following the tear, fluid inside your eye may get behind the tear and cause the retina to be lifted away from its normal position.
This is known as a retinal detachment. A detached retina is a serious condition that can result in severe vision loss or blindness.
How to Tell if a Retinal Detachment Causes Floaters
The most common warning sign of retinal detachment is a sudden increase in the number of floaters. You may also experience:
- Blurry or distorted vision
- Flashes of light
- Reduced side or peripheral vision
- A shadow or curtain over your field of vision
What to Do if You Experience Floaters?
A sudden onset of many floaters and other symptoms like flashes of light can be quite alarming. If you notice these symptoms, it’s important to visit your eye doctor right away.
Your eye doctor will perform a thorough eye examination to properly diagnose your condition. If you have a retinal detachment, time is of the essence in saving your sight.
Early treatment of a retinal detachment can help prevent permanent, irreversible vision loss or blindness.
How Can I Protect My Sight from a Retinal Detachment?
While very common, an abrupt onset of floaters should prompt a thorough eye health exam at VisionPoint Eye Center. Our team of expert eye doctors offer urgent eye care for emergencies like a retinal detachment and can diagnose the condition through a thorough retinal eye exam.
Have you noticed a sudden increase in floaters? Schedule an appointment at Vision Point Eye Center in Bloomington, IL, today!