Seeing black dots in your vision, also known as floaters, is very common. Usually, they are a condition not to worry about and they tend to sink out of your vision fast enough for them not to bother you. However, if you notice an increase in new floaters, especially with flashing lights, it could be an indication of something more serious – in this case contact your optician straight away. Here we take a closer look at some of the common causes, symptoms and how to treat black dots in your eye
What are the symptoms of floaters?
Some common symptoms of floaters include:
- Black or translucent dots or strands in your vision
- Seeing small black dots that give the impression of something ‘float’ across your field of vision and move out of your vision very quickly
- Black spots that are most noticeable when looking at a bright plain background, like a white wall, or when looking up to the sky.
- The appearance of new floaters may also be accompanied by seeing flashing lights, such as streaks of bright white light flickering across your vision.
What are floaters?
Dots, circles, clouds, cobwebs, lines or other shapes that look grey, white or are see-through may be floaters.
These can move or stay in one place and are easiest to spot when you look at a plain background like a blue sky or a blank wall. They are usually small and most of the time they quickly move out of your visual field.
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 are flashes?
Also known as photopsia, flashes are when you see a light even though there is no objective stimulus. It could be an arc of light or feeling that a light bulb has just flashed. These occur when the vitreous gel of the eye tugs, bumps or rubs against the retina. Flashes are sometimes accompanied by floaters.
What can cause flashes and floaters?
As people get older, the chances of vitreous detachment increase - this is almost so common it is considered a normal part of getting older.
Symptoms of this include floaters and you may begin to notice more of these or see 'lightening strikes' in your peripheral or side vision. Sometimes the retina can tear and this is called retinal detachment.
If you experience new or increasing flashes or floaters, a gradual shading in vision that feels like a curtain is being drawn over their eyes or possibly a rapid decline in the sharp, central vision you need to visit your optician or seek medical advice immediately. This could indicate a retinal detachment, a problem that can lead to severe loss of vision or blindness if not treated urgently.
Some people experience flashes in their vision, heat waves or jagged lines. These can last around 10 - 20 minutes and are known as aura.
This usually occurs in both eyes at the same time and they can be followed by a headache but can also occur without the headache. This could be triggered by a number of things, including strobe lights. You should see your doctor if you suspect you are experiencing this.
Eye floaters treatment
Generally, longstanding and unchanging floaters are harmless, but will always be noted by your optometrist during your eyesight appointment. During your examination, your optometrist will be able to see any significant floaters in the vitreous humour of the eye and will record and make a note of these so that changes can be monitored.
If you see many black dots in your eye or have many floaters that impact the quality of your vision, you could be referred to an ophthalmologist to see if further treatment would benefit. This includes surgery called a vitrectomy, in which the vitreous humour will be removed and replaced.1
How do you prevent eye floaters?
Eye floaters are a part of the natural ageing process. Although you cannot prevent eye floaters as soon as they appear or if you notice an increase you should see your optometrist to check they are not a symptom of a more serious condition.
However, if the black dots in your eye are overly troublesome and causing you problems, you can consider wearing dark glasses as this will make the floaters less noticeable.1
If you're worried about your eyes, call your store today to book an urgent eye health check. If your eye condition is accompanied by pain, vomiting/nausea, numbness or generally not feeling right - seek emergency care.
- Moorfields, ‘What are these floating things in my eye?’, Moorfields Private Eye Hospital (2021) [online] [Available at: https://www.moorfields-private.co.uk/news/news-article/what-are-these-floating-things-in-my-eye]