Should I be worried about eye floaters?

With only two eyes it’s natural to be concerned when changes to your field of vision suddenly show up. The appearance of floaters, or specks…
Should I be worried about eye floaters?

Do you have eye floaters or spots in your vision? (Shutterstock)

With only two eyes it’s natural to be concerned when changes to your field of vision suddenly show up. The appearance of floaters, or specks in your peripheral vision, is enough to make anyone nervous, but thankfully, experts indicate this condition is harmless in the majority of people who experience it.

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Eye floaters can appear as specks, squiggles, or cobweb-like dark spots in the field of vision, and they are especially noticeable when looking at a bright background such as a white paper or the bright blue sky. Eye floaters are experienced by approximately 70 percent of people, and according to WebMD, the appearance of floaters improves over time for most people.

But what causes eye floaters?

The dark specks associated with eye floaters are actually shadows of tiny particles floating in the clear vitreous making up the bulk of the eye’s interior. This gel-like substance gives the eye its shape and allows filtered light to pass through to the retina. Because the gel is in front of the retina, any particles will block the passage of light, resulting in  a shadow known as an eye floater.

Eye floaters themselves are usually proteins in the vitreous gel that have clumped together. IFL Science indicates these protein clumps can be the result of an unknown process or may develop as a result of age. The older an individual becomes, the more the vitreous gel in the eye shrinks. This causes the gel to pull on the retina, allowing bits of debris to enter and become floaters.

Some individuals also experience eye floaters that come and go in a short period of time. These may be the result of the vitreous gel pulling blood from vessels in the retina. As the blood enters the interior of the eye, it creates a cloudy eye floater. Once it is absorbed, however, the floater goes away.

Are eye floaters ever a serious concern?

The majority of eye floaters never require any treatment even if they remain in the field of vision for a person’s entire lifetime. Occasionally floaters may become annoying enough to warrant surgery, and if the appearance of eye floaters is accompanied by vision loss, pain, or flashes of light, a more serious issue may at hand.

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WebMD indicates eye floaters with the changes mentioned above may be a sign of retina detachment, retinal tear, or excessive bleeding within the eye. Eye tumors, fungal infections, or injuries may also result in the sudden appearance of eye floaters.

Harmless or not, if you have recently noticed eye floaters when they were not an issue before, make an appointment with your eye care provider. When it comes to vision, it is always better to err on the side of caution rather than risk the chance of losing your sight.