If you’ve ever noticed tiny dark spots, strings, or cobwebs darting across your line of vision, you’re probably experiencing what is known as “floaters.” Floaters tend to move along with your eye and will drift in different directions when your eyes are still.
“Floaters are typically more noticeable when you stare at a blue sky or white background,” says Joshua Udoetuk, M.D., Chief of Ophthalmology at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic. “Most floaters are caused by age-related changes in the vitreous, the jelly-like substance that fills your eye. Those changes cause microscopic fibers of cells to clump together and form elusive, phantom-like specks.”
Dr. Udoetuk says when light enters the eye and hits these particles, shadows are cast on the retina. What you see drifting in and out of your vision are merely shadows.
“Occasional floaters that don’t change shape and appear and disappear after a few seconds are
nothing to worry about,” he says. “However, a sudden onset of floaters at an increased frequency, especially if accompanied by lightning-like flashes or other symptoms such as pain, redness, or vision loss, can signal something serious.”
He says an especially alarming symptom is a darkness creeping into one or both sides of your vision, as this could indicate a retinal detachment.
“Any such symptoms could be caused by a retinal tear or detachment and needs examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist without delay to help prevent progressive vision loss,” cautions Dr. Udoetuk, who cares for patients at Kelsey-Seybold’s Berthelsen Main Campus, near the Texas Medical Center, and Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center.