Throughout life, many of us see what appear to be small specks of dust, wispy threads, or cobwebs drifting across our vision. Naturally our first instinct is to blink, only to find that the specks are still there. Trying to pinpoint the area the specks seem to be in presents a challenge because when our eyes move, so do the specks. Though some may think they are hallucinating, theses specs or threads are, in fact, real. They are called floaters.
Floaters are located in the jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye. The fluid is in a sac-like structure that is surrounded by a very thin membrane. This entire structure is called the vitreous body which contains many fibers that are typically invisible. Sometimes the fibers in the vitreous body detach from their origin and create “shadows” inside the eye. We perceive these shadows to be specs or threads.
Most floaters are mild and are caused by vitreous detachment, or when the jelly-like fluid in the eye liquefies as part of the normal age-related process beginning around age 40. Floaters that look like wispy threads tend to be more visible than the specks and in most cases resolve on their own within a few weeks to months. Sometimes vitreous changes can involve the retina and then the situation becomes more serious. The retina is the “seeing tissue” inside the eye, which contains special nerve cells that react to light and send visual information to the brain. The fibers in the vitreous jelly that cause the wispy, thread-like floaters, are usually attached to the retina. When the vitreous body separates from the retina, the fibers can sometimes pull hard enough to tear or cause breaks in the retina. These breaks or tears can lead to a full retinal detachment.
As vitreous separation can cause floaters, it can also stimulate the retinal nerve cells and cause the eye to experience a flash of light. This can be a small flash in just one spot or several flashes across a broad area of vision. It is not unusual for flashes and floaters to occur at the same time. As with floaters, flashes can also be a symptom of a retinal detachment, which can damage vision significantly and in some cases cause total blindness.
Anyone who experiences flashes alone or, flashes with floaters, should see their eye doctor as soon as possible. After a thorough examination, your doctor can give advice and treatment options for flashes and floaters, which may be nothing more than a follow-up exam to ensure that the affected eye does not develop a retinal tear or detachment.
If you think you may be experiencing flashes and floaters, we advise you to seek immediate care to ensure you are not experiencing a retinal detachment or any other potentially vision threatening condition. At Cockrell Eye care Center we have specific technology to diagnose and manage flashes and floaters. We also have and an experienced team of doctors and staff who can thoroughly investigate flashes and floaters and take the appropriate action.
For more information we can be reached in our Stillwater office at 405-372-1715 or in Pawnee at 918-762-2573. We also invite you to view our website at: www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!