Most all of us have experienced them at some point or another: those annoying little spots or specks that move around aimlessly in our field of vision. These are called floaters, which are caused by small pieces of vitreous that break loose within the eye. At a young age, the vitreous is gel-like. But as we get older, it dissolves and liquefies. Sometimes, the undissolved pieces float around, leading to eye floaters. A similar scenario many people experience are flashes. Flashes can appear to be flashing lights or streaks of light within your field of vision. They typically happen when the vitreous rubs or pulls on the retina.
Both floaters and flashers usually go away over time and are actually very common—if they happen occasionally. There are medical conditions that can cause these nuisances. A few signs to look that may mean medical attention is necessary include:
• The sudden appearance of floaters
• Experiencing a high number of flashes
• Floaters being accompanied by flashes
• A shadow appearing in the peripheral (side) vision
These symptoms could mean that the vitreous is pulling away, or detaching, from the retina, which is a condition known as posterior vitreous detachment. If the vitreous pulls on the retina, it could lead to a tear or even a hole in it, which causes retinal detachment. Or, it also might mean the retina is getting dislodged. These conditions could lead to serious vision loss, so it’s critical to see an eye care professional right away if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.