Depending on your age and eye medical history, you may have noticed a few or many floaters in your vision. Floaters are black dots or squiggles that you may see moving around in your vision, more obvious when you look at a light background or are somewhere with high illumination. When you move your eyes, they move with your gaze. These form in the vitreous humour, the gelatinous filling near the back of the eye. Often, we have a few floaters that our visual system gets used to with time, but there are also reasons why new floaters might appear later on in life. Some of these are normal, and some can be signs of something wrong in the eyes. Read on to learn about some common causes of floaters.
Posterior Vitreous Detachments (PVD)
The most common, and most harmless, reason to develop a new floater is the change in composition of the vitreous with age. As we grow older, this gel becomes more liquid-like and shrinks, pulling back from the retina and forming pockets of material that become a floater, or a posterior vitreous detachment. You may have some floaters even when you are young, but as we grow older you will always acquire more. Gradually seeing some more floaters in your vision through the years is normal, but there are other symptoms that can accompany them that signal something wrong with your eyes, and these will be explained below.
Vitreous and Preretinal Hemorrhage
When the vitreous pulls away from the retina with age, as explained above, sometimes it can tear blood vessels in the retina and lead to some bleeding that will show up as floaters in your vision. This bleeding can also result from trauma or other disease processes going on in the body, such as diabetes, sickle cell disease, or blood vessel blockages. These diseases can cause new, fragile blood vessels to grow from the retina into the vitreous, and these can then easily bleed to block vision.
Any bleeding like these described will cause a sudden and dramatic increase in the number and size of floaters in your vision and can completely block your vision if a full vitreous hemorrhage occurs. This can last for 2-3 months while the blood is cleared from the eyes. This shows the need to protect your eyes from trauma and to get your eyes checked regularly with one of our eye doctors, especially if you have underlying medical conditions that can manifest in the eyes.
Retinal Breaks and Floaters
A retinal break, tear, or detachment (retina peeling off) is the most urgent cause for sudden formation of floaters. Other symptoms often accompany this, such as lightning flashes of light in one’s vision, a foggy film appearance to vision in one eye, or the appearance of a dark curtain over one’s vision. If you are experiencing these symptoms, see one of our eye doctors immediately, as you may require urgent surgery in the coming days to prevent you from losing vision in that eye.