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May 1, 2016

Seeing floaters?

Eye floaters are a reason to see our Optometrists for a medically necessary visit now covered by Alberta Health Care for all age groups. Floaters look like spots, specks, flecks and/or “cobwebs” that drift around in your field of vision. Floaters can hinder your vision and be annoying at first onset.

So where do these floaters come from? Most of the interior of the eye is filled with a gel-like substance called the vitreous that helps the eye maintain its round shape. As we age, the vitreous begins to shrink and becomes stringy. These strands cast shadows on the retina causing you to see eye floaters. Floaters are more noticeable when you look at a clear or overcast sky or a computer screen with a white or light-colored background. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly.

When Are Eye Floaters and Flashes a Medical Emergency?

If these floaters are accompanied by flashes of light (lightning streaks) in your side vision it is important you are seen by our Optometrist right away. Flashes of light or photopsias can occur when your retina receives mechanical stimulation, which can happen when it is being tugged, torn or detached. These light flashes may appear as lightning bolts, flickering lights or random sparks.

The sudden appearance of these symptoms could mean that the vitreous is pulling away from your retina or what is known as a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). As the vitreous tugs on the retina, it might cause a tear, hole or detachment.A retinal detachment is a serious condition and should always be considered an emergency.

Posterior vitreous detachments are more common after the age of 50 years. In certain conditions such as nearsightedness or myopia, people are more likely to have a posterior vitreous detachment at a younger age. Most people have floaters and learn to ignore them over time.

Our Optometrists advise if you experience new floaters or flashes of light to call us right away. We will get you seen the same day and your visit will be covered by Alberta Health Care.


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