Why Am I Seeing Floating Spots in My Vision?

Have you ever noticed floating spots when you’re looking at the sky on a bright sunny day? Or did you ever think that you saw squiggly lines on your white wall? Are there gnats constantly flying around in your vision? These are a few examples of what you can experience when you have vitreous floaters.

Why Do I Have Floaters?

The eye has three chambers, the largest of which is in the back of the eye, called the vitreous chamber. This chamber is filled with a gelatinous substance called the vitreous, which helps the eye keep its shape. The vitreous starts to shrink and liquefy over time. These changes cause the collagen fibers it is made of to clump or cluster and these clusters are the floaters we see. They can take on many shapes – circular, string or strand-like, ring-shaped, or cobweb-like. We are, in fact, seeing the shadows of these floaters as they are cast onto the retina (the back of the eye). The floaters will move when our eyes move and will settle when our eyes are not moving.

Should I Be Concerned about the Floaters in My Vision?

Generally speaking, floaters are very common. We will all usually experience them at one point in our lives. However, there are some factors that may increase the risk or cause early onset of floaters:

  • History of eye surgery
  • Diabetes
  • High myopia or nearsightedness
  • Injury or trauma to eyes
  • Being over the age of 50

Can I Get Rid of My Floaters?

Unfortunately there is no cure or treatment for vitreous floaters. The treatment that would be necessary would be riskier than monitoring them over time. Fortunately our brains will adapt and learn to ignore them.

What if My Floaters Increase in Size, Shape, or Number?

This can be a cause for concern. Whenever there is a change in current floaters or they appear to multiply, care should be sought with an eye care professional. Additionally, if flashes of light are seen in your vision for no explainable reason or if there are dark spots that do not move with your eyes and are blocking vision, then a visit to your eye doctor is warranted. These can be indications that there are problems in the retina and could potentially be sight-threatening if not treated immediately.

When to Seek Treatment

  • New floater(s)
  • Flashing lights in vision/peripheral vision – suddenly for no reason
  • Dark spots/areas in vision that don’t move or don’t go away

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Nicole Swistak is an Optometrist with 12 years of experience in primary eye care. She has worked alongside our nation’s armed forces and volunteers with local free clinics.