We’ve all seen those little dark spots floating in front of our eyes. We tend to ignore them, and when we do try to look at them, they can move with our eye movements. What are these floaters, and are they dangerous? Read on to learn more.

What are floaters?

Floaters are specks, lines, or cobwebs that seem to hover in our vision. Normally, floaters are caused by a degeneration of the vitreous, the gel that fills the eye. As we age, this gel begins to shrink or degenerate. Small clumps start to float in the eye, or the strands start to cast small shadows on the retina.

Why do I see flashes?

Sometimes, the vitreous pulls on the retina as it breaks down. This can stimulate photoreceptors, which may lead to us seeing lightning streaks in our peripheral vision. These are called flashes. If you see flashes, it is recommended you see your eye doctor right away.

Should I do anything about them?

Ophthalmologist Omar Punjabi, MD

In most cases, floaters are harmless and don’t need any treatment. However, in some cases floaters may indicate a more serious eye condition.For example, they may be a sign of blood in the eye (caused by diabetes, an eye injury, or a stroke in the eye), a retinal tear, or in rare cases a retinal detachment. This is especially the case if you see a large surge of new floaters or flashes, or a dark shadow in your vision.

Floaters can also be a sign of infection, inflammation, hemorrhage, and, rarely, certain eye tumors.

“If you see flashing lights, or have a sudden increase in floaters, please see your eye doctor right away,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Omar Punjabi, MD, said. “Early diagnosis and prompt treatment is critical in the diagnosis and management of several retinal diseases.”

To make an appointment with Dr. Punjabi or any of CEENTA’s eye doctors, call 704-295-3000. You can also request an appointment online or through myCEENTAchart.

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