If you’ve ever seen a tiny speck drifting through your field of view, you’ve probably had an eye floater. They’re an extremely common occurrence for most people but can be alarming if you don’t know what it is. Is it an eye condition, or just a harmless speck? And more importantly—are floaters in the eye dangerous?
Eye floaters are rarely a problem, and by themselves, they aren’t dangerous. However, they can sometimes be an indication that something is wrong inside the eye. If you’re worried about eye floaters, or feel you have an unexpected change to your vision, you can visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam and receive a proper diagnosis of what’s causing the floaters.
What Causes Eye Floaters?
Your eyes are an extremely complex part of your body. They refract light through the clear front lens so that it reaches a point on the retina, where it then is sent through the optic nerve to the brain.
But what if something gets in the way of the light? Something small inside your eye? Your brain sees a shadow.
Eye floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells that form inside the gel-like substance that fills the middle of your eye. As we age, the eye is constantly changing. Some older cells can clump together, or some parts of this gel may harden and form tiny clumps. This causes shadows in your field of view—these little floaters are blocking the light from fully reaching the retina.
Can Eye Floaters Damage the Eye?
Most eye floaters are entirely harmless and can’t cause any damage to the eye itself. However, in some rare cases, they can be a sign that something serious is occurring inside the eye. While the floaters themselves aren’t causing a problem, they may be an indication that something else is.
If you notice any sudden flashes of light accompanied by sharp pain in the eye, seek immediate medical attention. This could be something called “retinal detachment,” where the retina starts to pull away from the walls around it. This rare condition is considered a medical emergency.
That’s not the only condition that can cause floaters. They can also be caused by:
- Age-related changes in the eye
- Recent injury or trauma
- Internal bleeding
- Retinal tears or damage
So if you notice any discomfort, irritation, or pain in your eye, visit your optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam. If you’ve been noticing more floaters than usual, make sure to mention this—while it may not be a serious problem, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Can an Optometrist See Floaters in the Eye?
When you’re visiting your optometrist for an eye exam, they’ll perform a wide series of tests designed to catch and diagnose all kinds of potential problems. One of these tests involves dilating your pupils. This lets more light reach the inside of the eye and makes it much easier for the optometrist to examine your eye’s inner mechanisms.
Because of this, they’ll likely be able to see any floaters in your eye. They’ll check the different parts of your eye to determine if you have any problems that could be potentially causing these floaters. Don’t worry—this dilation is temporary.
Once they’re finished with the exam, they’ll give you up-to-date advice on taking care of your eyes and can recommend appropriate treatment if there’s a condition causing your eye floaters.
How to Deal with Eye Floaters
While there’s no foolproof way to completely and permanently remove eye floaters, there are a few strategies you can incorporate to try and minimize how they develop.
It can help to:
- Avoid tobacco, as it causes inflammation and can damage the eye’s sensitive systems
- Stay hydrated
- Follow a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables
- Take regular breaks when doing something that requires intense focus
- Regularly exercise—it helps keep you healthy
Don’t forget to regularly visit your optometrist for comprehensive eye exams. This way, an experienced professional can thoroughly examine your eyes and catch any potential problems early—long before they start causing any damage.
When to Visit the Optometrist
If you ever notice sudden flashes of light, pain, or any other discomfort, it’s time to visit our team at Golden Hills Optometry. While eye floaters rarely cause damage to the eye, they can be a sign that something further is wrong. So let our team help take care of your eyes, and book an appointment with us today!