Seeing little black spots and squiggles? Do they disappear when you look directly at them? Although it seems strange and may even be alarming, the truth is that seven out of ten people experience some version of floaters during their lifetime.
There are different types of floaters but all of them occur in the vitreous gel, the clear substance that fills your eyes, helping your eyeballs maintain their shape and allowing light to pass through your retinas. When you are born and throughout your youth, the vitreous has a gel-like consistency. But as you age, the vitreous becomes stringy, begins to shrink, and particles form in the gel. These particles block the light passing through your eyes and cast shadows on your retina, which you see as floaters.
Here are some of the types and causes of floaters:
- (PVD) Posterior Vitreous Detachment – When the vitreous gel pulls away from your retina, floaters resemble cobwebs, a mist or a veil that obscures a portion of your field of vision. These floaters usually become less noticeable after a few months. Lightening streaks or light flickers accompanied by floaters can also be PVD. These flashes may appear off and on for weeks or months, but usually eventually
- Burst retinal blood vessels – These floaters usually look little black dots, which can resemble smoke or a cloud of gnats. They can last for months, but usually resolve themselves as your body reabsorbs the blood.
- Protein clump formation -These floaters usually look like cobwebs, squiggles or tadpoles. They remain in the vitreous gel permanently, and can be ignored.
Floaters may signal a serious problem if their onset is rapid. Their sudden appearance could mean that the vitreous is pulling away from your retina or that your retina is becoming dislodged from the back of your eye. When your retina is torn, vitreous can invade the opening and push out your retina, leading to a retinal detachment.
If you have experienced a sudden appearance of floaters or have a general concern, call and book a consultation with one of our doctors, today.