The occasional eye floaters typically aren’t cause for much concern. But when eye floaters come on suddenly or with other symptoms, such as a curtain closing on your vision, blurry vision or loss of vision, or frequent flashes of light, you should see your optometrist for an eye examination as soon as possible.
A sudden presence of floaters accompanied by the above symptoms could indicate the development of several serious eye conditions, like retinal detachment, and should be treated as an eye care emergency. Once vision is lost, it cannot be recovered.
What Are Eye Floaters?
Developing floaters is a part of natural changes in the eye. Your eyes are filled with a gel-like fluid called vitreous fluid. As you age, tiny strands of vitreous fluid can clump together, which casts shadows across the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye—the retina.
These shadows cause floaters to come and go in your vision. The occasional floaters typically won’t cause vision impairment and require no treatment.
Causes of Eye Floaters
Age isn’t the only thing that can cause floaters, though. Some potential serious causes for floaters include:
- Inflammation in the back of your eye. Infection, autoimmune conditions, or inflammatory disease can all lead to inflammation
- Bleeding in the eye caused by a retinal tear, injury, surgery, diabetes, or high blood pressure
- Retinal detachment
Unless the floaters affect your vision or a more serious underlying condition causes them, it’s unlikely that your eye doctor will recommend further treatment. A lot of the time, eye floaters will come and go.
But if treatment is the best way forward, there are a couple of options:
An eye doctor can use a vitrectomy to treat several ocular conditions, such as injuries to the retina, cataracts, eye trauma, or diabetic retinopathy. Essentially, this procedure allows your ophthalmologist to drain vitreous fluid from your eye.
Laser therapy can help reduce how noticeable floaters are in your vision. The eye doctor uses a laser to help break up the clumps of vitreous fluid, reducing noticeable floaters in your field of view.
Laser therapy is much less invasive than a vitrectomy, but like any procedure, it isn’t without some risks. Talk to your eye doctor about whether laser therapy is right for you.
Eye Floaters & Emergency Eyecare
Floaters don’t typically cause any major problems, it’s true. But there is still the potential that suddenly getting floaters can indicate that something more serious is going on.
The retina is a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye. It’s responsible for transferring light into neural signals your brain can understand and turn into visual recognition. If this layer tears or detaches itself from the normal position, the retinal cells begin losing their blood supply. Eventually this causes necrosis.
If a retinal tear or detachment is left untreated, the risk of permanent vision loss continues going up. There will likely be no discomfort when your retina detaches, but the signs can include the following:
- Flashes of light
- An explosion of new floaters
- Reduced vision—especially peripheral (side) vision
- Blurry vision
- A curtain-like shadow closing on your field of vision
A vitreous hemorrhage could be from abnormal blood vessels. Trauma or injury could also cause the rupture of normal blood vessels in the eye. Another complication, like retinal detachment, could also cause a vitreous hemorrhage.
Just like retinal detachment, vitreous hemorrhage doesn’t typically cause discomfort. But there are a few signs to watch out for:
- Sudden unilateral eye floaters
- Vision loss
- Vision starts worse in the morning and clears up as the day goes on
When Should You Worry About Eye Floaters
If you begin experiencing a sudden increase in floaters in your vision, and any of the symptoms above accompany them, it’s important to contact your eye doctor immediately. They may consider it an eye emergency and book you in right away.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you should visit your local emergency department if the symptoms are rapidly developing after regular business hours.
Discuss Your Symptoms With Your Eye Doctor
Even if you haven’t noticed new symptoms, our high-tech examination equipment may be able to detect potential problems early.