The shadows and tiny specks that you sometimes see are actually called floaters. These frequently happen when you stare into a light, or concentrate your stare on a blank wall, or a plain background. Sometimes when you are experiencing a feeling of lightheadedness you will see these shadows.
There is a clear fluid filling the inner membrane of your eye called the vitreous fluid. A floater is actually a formation of cells in this fluid. The floaters come in different sizes, and they can be shaped differently also. Sometimes you will see cobwebs, and sometimes you see dots or circles before your eyes.
Actually these shadowy shapes look like they are before your eyes, in reality they are inside your eye. At the back of your eye you have a nerve layer, (called the retina) that is your light sensor. The light reflecting off this nerve layer allows you to have sight, and the floaters are actually shadows being cast onto this portion of your eye.
As you age the vitreous liquid inside your eye begins to change. It may become thicker, or it may begin to shrink in size. The vitreous liquid could form clumps and even strands like rope. What is actually happening is known as posterior vitreous detachment. This means that the vitreous is beginning to detach from the back portion of the eye.
Some people ignore these floating shadows, but if you suddenly start seeing these, you should see your ophthalmologist to make certain nothing is wrong. If you are older than 45 you especially should make an appointment when these occur suddenly.
Are They Serious?
A floater is a natural occurrence that everyone experiences on occasion. They are more annoying than they are dangerous, and treatment is often sought just because they are annoying the person, or creating vision difficulties.
Generally when you concentrate your eyes on a plain background you will notice the floaters. If you are seeing them no matter what background you are looking at, or you have a sudden increase in the number of floaters you see, or they are accompanied by temporary loss of sight, you need to see an eye doctor soon. There is a condition where the retina detaches from the tissue that is supporting it. This is a serious condition that requires treatment.
What Causes the Floaters?
Damage to the eye that results in foreign materials entering the vitreous humor portion will cause floaters as well as:
- Vitreous Syneresis: A condition of the eye where the vitreous humor starts to shrink.
- Posterior Vitreous Detachments: A condition where the support to the vitreous liquid is reduced.
- Retinal Detachments: A serious eye condition caused by the retina becoming detached from its support system.
What to do about Floaters:
Generally people will only see an occasional floater and they are not troubled by them at all.
If you see sudden increased numbers of floaters or you see flashes of light, or especially if you notice reduced peripheral vision, you should seek medical help.