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Flashes and Floaters

Its diagnosis, treatment and advice by our Optometrist at Vision Opticians, Opticians in Southfields Village.

What are floaters?

Floaters appear as black spots or something that looks like a hair or small pieces of a cobweb.

These can be semi-transparent or dark and appear to float in front of your vision. If you have had these for years, your eye and your brain learn to ignore them. Sometimes the number of floaters increases as you get older. Occasionally an increase in floaters can be a sign of problems inside the eye.

As they ‘float’ in the jelly of your eye, you will find that if you move your eye to try to look at a floater, it will move away in the direction you move your eye. You might only see the floater if you are staring at a light-coloured surface or at the sky during the day.

Some people find that floaters can be a nuisance but most people become used to them. They rarely cause problems with your vision.

Why do floaters happen?

Some people are born with floaters. Other floaters occur as you get older when the gel in the eye, the vitreous humour, naturally shrinks. The gel separates into a watery fluid and wavy collagen fibrils. You see the fibrils as line-shaped floaters. Sometimes the gel shrinks enough to collapse away from the light sensitive lining at the back of your eye which is called the retina. Once the gel has collapsed, some people see a large ring-shaped floater. If the vitreous gel collapses, it can pull on your retina. If this happens, you would see this as flashes of light.

Floaters can also be caused by some eye diseases that cause inflammation.

What might happen if I have floaters?

Most of the time floaters are harmless. Sometimes they may be annoying, but treatment is not advised.

A sudden increase in floaters, either one or more large ones or a shower of tiny ones, may be a sign of a more serious eye disease such as a retinal detachment. This requires urgent medical attention and you should consult our optometrist at Vision in the Village or attend the nearest eye hospital. The optometrist will be able to refer you straight away.