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OCLI Answers Your Questions: Floaters

Q: Is there a way to get rid of the tiny dark specks that float across your eyes? What causes this?

A: These tiny dark specks that you see are actually known as “floaters.” Floaters and “flashes” are a rather common occurrence for several people. A floater is a term that refers to the specks, threads, or cob-web like images that occasionally drift across one’s field of vision. Eye floaters are typically more pronounced when looking at a clear sky or a screen with a light background. While these floating images appear to be in front of your eye, they are actually clumps of cells inside of the vitreous, which is the fluid that fills the inside of the eye. When we are young, the vitreous has a gel-like consistency. However, when we age, the vitreous begins to liquefy, creating a watery center. When clumps of undissolved cells move within the vitreous, they cast a shadow onto the eye’s retina, thus creating a small, dark image. Flashes, on the other hand, are streaks of light that flicker across the field of vision. Flashes usually occur whenever the vitreous bumps or pulls the retina, and they can appear off and on for several weeks. Sometimes, people experience flashes of light that appear as lines or “heatwaves” that are a result of blood vessel spasms in the brain.

Both floaters and flashes are generally harmless occurrences and will eventually fade away without alarm. However, there are a few signs that could signal potential eye trouble. A sudden appearance of flashes, a sudden increase in number and size of floaters, a shadow that appears in your peripheral vision, or a sudden decrease in vision, are signs that the eye’s vitreous may be pulling away from the retina. If this is the case, you may have a retinal tear or retinal detachment. It is important to see your ophthalmologist right away if you experience any of these symptoms in order to prevent permanent vision loss.

If you would like to schedule an appointment to address any symptoms of floaters and flashes, please visit Ophthalmic Consultants of Long Island atwww.OCLI.net or call 1.866.SEE.OCLI (1.866.733.6254).