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Are Eye Floaters Dangerous?

November 1 2021

If the occasional spot, line, or shadow pops up in your visual field, you’re probably seeing eye floaters. Those unexpected shapes may be a normal part of the aging process, since the structures that make up your eyes age in much the same way as the rest of the body. The appearance of eye floaters only becomes dangerous when accompanied by other, more severe, symptoms. In this post, a Marysville WA optometrist discusses eye floaters and which signs may point to a more serious problem. 


What Are Eye Floaters?



Eye floaters are what you see when a jelly-like fluid, called vitreous, forms fibrous bundles behind the lens of your eye. These bundles cast shadows on the retina (which sits at the back of the eye), creating the floater effect. Eye floaters typically develop in your 50s and are a normal part of the aging process.


These shadowy figures can appear in different forms, including:


  • Threads
  • Cobwebs
  • Moving shapes
  • Gray or black specks 
  • Squiggly lines


For some people, floaters may appear more frequently when looking at a light-colored or plain background. All of these symptoms are usually harmless. However, if the figures you see increase in number or reach a point where they start to impede your vision, a visit to the optometrist may be in order.


When to Start Worrying About Eye Floaters 


While eye floaters are a normal part of the aging process, in some cases, they may be a symptom of an underlying health issue. Here are a few conditions that can cause floaters to appear:


  • An eye injury
  • Inflammation in the eye
  • An eye infection
  • Retinal detachment, when the retina pulls away from the back of the eye
  • Vitreous detachment, when the vitreous pulls away from the retina


As a general rule, it’s best to get your eyes examined any time your vision is affected. If you start to experience flashes of light that look like stars, lightning, or camera flashes, consider seeing an eye doctor. Flashes usually occur when the vitreous gel pulls on your retina or rubs against it. This may be a sign of retinal detachment, which can be serious. 


Other things to be wary of include seeing a noticeable increase in the number of floaters, seeing a dark shadow in the middle of your visual field or in your peripheral vision. Each of these symptoms should be taken seriously and definitely warrant a visit to your Marysville WA optometrist. 

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