Have you ever seen small dots, specks, blobs, threads or squiggly lines in your field of vision? These are called eye floaters and are a common, usually harmless, visual phenomenon. Although eye floaters rarely cause problems, understanding what causes them and how to monitor them is essential to ensuring good eye health.
What Causes Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters are caused by tiny, semi-transparent strands of vitreous humour, the gel-like fluid that fills your eye. These strands of protein stick together and cast shadows on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye.
The most common cause of floaters is the aging process, as the vitreous humour becomes more liquid and forms clumps or strands. Other causes of eye floaters include:
Inflammatory conditions, such as uveitis. Uveitis can cause dark floating spots because of inflammatory cells in the vitreous humour. There would usually also be pain, redness, and/or sensitivity to light. If left untreated, uveitis can cause vision loss or permanent blindness.
Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD)is a condition that happens when the gel-filled sac at the back of the eye shrinks and pulls away from the retina. PVD can cause floaters or flashes of light. Although PVD doesn’t threaten your vision, you shouldn’t ignore it because occasionally it can cause a retinal hole or tear.
Retinal detachmenthappens when there’s a hole or tear in the thin, light-sensitive layer at the back of the eye. Retinal detachment can cause a sudden increase in floaters and is considered a medical emergency. If retinal detachment isn’t treated right away, more of the retina can detach and cause permanent vision loss.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, blocked blood vessels and injury can also cause eye floaters. If you’re worried about eye floaters in your vision, it’s best to speak with your eye doctor as soon as possible.
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