An online newsletter article for optometrists. The piece provides answers to patients’ questions about floaters, an annoying, common eye condition.

Do Patients Worry About Floaters?

What They Need to Know

By Shannan Seely

“Squiggly lines.”

“Tiny flecks.”

“Spider cobwebs.”

Sound familiar?

You’re probably heard these words from patients, as they describe what they sometimes see in their line of vision. Often labeled as eye floaters, these specks are common as people age and aren’t usually a cause of concern.

But your patients may wonder what is normal and what is not. When are eye floaters an indication of a vision problem?

Here are frequently asked questions and answers your patients need to know:

What is a floater?

Occasionally, you may see small spots in your line of vision. The spots, known as floaters, appear as dots, threads or “cobwebs.”1,2 They are most noticeable when you view a clear sky or a computer screen with a white background.3

What causes floaters?

The inside of the eye is filled with a clear gel called the vitreous body. Over a long time, the vitreous gel shrinks and may detach from the retina, the sensory membrane that lines the back of the eye.1,2 This movement can cause tiny amounts of bleeding and is a common cause of floaters in people who are greatly nearsighted or had a cataract operation.1 In rare cases, floaters are a result of other eye surgery, eye disease, eye injury or crystal-like deposits that form in the vitreous.1

When do floaters cause concern?

Usually, the presence of a few floaters does not mean you have a serious eye problem.1 However, if any of the following symptoms occur, it’s crucial to get an eye examination:

  • A large number suddenly appear
  • They seem to worsen over time
  • If the floaters appear together with flashes of light or if you experience any vision loss, it might be a sign of a serious medical condition1,2

As a rule, you should immediately notify your eye doctor if you experience any loss of vision. A complete eye examination will help determine the seriousness of floaters by taking a closer look at the health of your inner eye.

References

  1. Floaters. http://www.preventblindness.org/floaters. Accessed June 2, 2017.
  2. What Exactly is a Floater in Your Eye. http://thinkaboutyoureyes.com/articles/eye-problems-diseases/what-exactly-is-a-floater-in-your-eye. Published 2016. Accessed June 2, 2017.
  3. Haddrill M, reviewed by Slonim, MD C. Eye Floaters, Flashes and Spots. http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/spotsfloats.htm. Published 2017. Accessed June 2, 2017.