Eye Floaters

Eye Floaters with your Virginia Beach & Norfolk Optometrist

“Floaters” are small spots, shadows, or dots that a person may see in their field of vision. Sometimes they dart away if you try to look at them directly. Optometrists answer questions about floaters on almost a daily basis because of the annoyance and prevalence this common problem causes. Many people are concerned that floaters might be a serious eye problem.

Floaters are for the most part, something that is perfectly normal, but sometimes they can be an indicator of a more severe problem. Think of them as a mole or a freckle; most of the time they are harmless, but a doctor should always examine them to be certain.

For the most part, what a person sees as floaters are tiny bits of body matter floating around in the gel-like fluid inside of the eye. This fluid, known as vitreous, helps the eye maintain its shape somewhat like the air inside a basketball. Vitreous occupies the space between the eye’s lens and the retina, which is the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye.

Over time, the vitreous slowly shrinks and becomes somewhat stringy. These stringy bits of vitreous cast shadows as light enters the eyes to create the floaters you see.

As the vitreous shrinks, it tugs and pulls at the retina. This pulling action releases more bits of material that often appear as floaters.

Though less common, some more serious causes of floaters include eye infection, inflammation, hemorrhaging, retinal tears and injuries to the eye.

Most eye floaters are harmless annoyances, eventually settling at the bottom of your eye below your line of vision. Floaters that develop suddenly can be a symptom of a more serious eye problem, especially when accompanied by a large number of “flashes” that look like stars or a curtain-like dark veil that comes down over part of your field of vision. These symptoms may indicate posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), a condition where the entire vitreous has separated from the rest of the eye. PVD can lead to retinal detachment, where the light sensitive retinal tissue lining the back of the eye separates completely from the rest of the eye.

Retinal detachment and PVD are serious eye conditions and require emergency treatment. Left untreated PVD and retinal detachment can lead to permanent vision impairment or even blindness.

While anyone can develop floaters, they are most common as people age and in those with diabetes. Other common conditions associated with floaters are high levels of nearsightedness, or in people who have had a cataract operation.

Treatment for Floaters

Floaters require no special treatment in most cases but, because they are associated with potentially vision-robbing diseases like PVD and retinal detachment, you should always tell your eye doctor if you have floaters. Your optometrist will examine your eyes to make sure there are no signs of serious problems associated with your floaters.

Schedule Your Appointment Today!

If you have floaters, make an appointment with Gilbert Eyecare. We have two conveniently located Hampton Roads offices to serve you. Call 757-425-0200 to make an appointment in Virginia Beach and call 757-622-0200 to make an appointment in Norfolk.