What are the symptoms of floaters?
Floaters appear as black or translucent spots or strands, which give the impression of seeing something ‘float’ across your field of vision. Most are very small and move out of your vision very quickly.
They are most noticeable when looking at a bright plain background, like a white wall, or when looking up to the sky. You will likely see more floaters in your vision as you get older, and if you are short-sighted.
The appearance of new floaters may also be accompanied by seeing flashing lights, such as streaks of bright white light flickering across your vision.
In rare occasions, new floaters and flashing lights can sometimes be an indication of retinal detachment, a potentially serious condition. This can be treated with early detection, so it is important to contact your optometrist immediately if you notice new floaters, flashing lights, or both.
What causes floaters?
Floaters are tiny pieces of debris in the eye’s fluid, known as the vitreous humour. This is the jelly-like substance found in the space in the middle of the eyeball. As children, the vitreous humour is fairly solid, but as we age the ‘jelly’ naturally becomes more watery. Floaters occur when clumps of the vitreous humour start moving around within this watery substance.
The dots or strands formed cast shadows on the retina, which leads to an interruption in vision and therefore the appearance of something floating in front of your eye.
What help is available?
Generally, longstanding and unchanging floaters are harmless, but will always be noted by your optometrist during your sight test. During your examination, your optometrist will be able to see any floaters at the back of the eye and will record these so that changes can be monitored.
Should someone have many floaters that impact upon the quality of their vision, Specsavers can arrange a referral to a hospital ophthalmologist to see if treatment would benefit.
New floaters or flashing lights should be checked by your optometrist as quickly as possible. During this appointment, the optometrist will dilate your pupils using eye drops to get a clear view of the retina. They will look for any signs of retinal detachment, which may lead to a referral to the hospital for further investigations or treatment.