Eye "Spots" or "Floaters"
You can often see floaters or spots when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky. Floaters are small
clumps of condensed protein or cells that form in the vitreous,
the clear fluid that fills the interior cavity of the eye.
Vitreous
is 99% water and similar in appearance to clear Jell-O.


Floaters may appear as specks, strands, webs or other shapes moving into your field of vision. You don't see the floater itself
but it's shadow cast onto the retina, the light sensitive film at the back of the eye.
Since the floater is within your eye, and moves with it, any effort to look directly at
the floater causes it to constantly "run away" as your eye turns.


Light Flashes

Flashes of light lasting a few seconds may appear in your vision when the vitreous gel pulls or tugs on the retina. This may happen as a natural result of aging or it may occur temporarily if you receive a blow to the head or eye. Usually these flashes, which are often described as lightning streaks, are noticed at night.

The onset of new light flashes of short duration at night, especially when accompanied
by the appearance of many new floaters or a blackening out of part of your field of vision, may indicate a retinal tear or detachment. If you experience light flashes in combination with these symptoms, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.


Migraine - Some people experience flashes of light that appear as jagged lines or "heat waves" in both eyes, often lasting 10-20 minutes. These types of flashes are usually caused by a spasm of blood vessels in the brain, which is called a migraine. If a
headache follows the flashes, it is called a migraine headache. However, jagged lines or "heat waves" can occur without a headache. Migraine-related flashes are often noticed
in a lighted environment. Flashes of this nature are not a symptom of eye problems. If you suffer from ocular migraines, contact your general physician for assistance.

What Causes Eye Floaters and Spots?
In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process. As we grow older, the vitreous shrinks causing the development of cloudy clumps of vitreous which are seen as floaters. The shrinking vitreous gel in the eye sometimes pulls free of its attachment to the back of the eye at the optic nerve. When this happens, a large floater is usually seen which can resemble a cobweb. This is frequently associated with the sensation of flashing lights as a result of the vitreous pulling on the retina.

The separation of the vitreous from the back of the eye is called
a posterior vitreous detachment. During this separation, tears can develop in the retina which can lead to a retinal detachment. This can sometimes cause
a small amount of bleeding in the eye that may also appear as new floaters. Early
detection and treatment of tears can prevent a retinal detachment.


Floaters are more common in people who:
  • are nearsighted;
  • have undergone cataract surgery;
  • have had YAG laser surgery of the eye;
  • have had inflammation inside the eye.


Treatment for Spots and Floaters

Most spots and eye floaters are annoying but harmless and the vast majority of people with floaters do not develop retinal detachment. Whether you see clusters, specks, black dots or cobwebs, most floaters go away over time. Either the gel completely dissolves,
or the chunks settle down to the bottom of the eye or (most likely) your brain learns to simply ignore them.

There is no drug therapy available to eliminate floaters. People are sometimes interested in surgery to remove floaters but many doctors are unwilling to perform such surgery except in severe cases.

If you suddenly see new floaters or floaters accompanied by flashes of light or peripheral vision loss, it could indicate serious conditions such as diabetic retinopathy; vascular abnormalities such as retinal hemorrhages or carotid artery disease, in addition to the beginning of a retinal detachment.  Whenever you experience an increase in the number of floaters, with or without light flashes, you should call your eye doctor immediately.
 

Sources:       Back to Top
1) American Optometric Association  
2) National Eye Institute