Floaters are small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. You may see them more clearly when looking at a plain background, such as a blank wall. Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. Floaters can have different shapes, such as little dots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs.
Though these objects look like they are in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside of it. What you see are the shadows they cast on the retina, the nerve layer at the back of of the eye that senses light and allows you to see.
When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. Floaters often occur when the vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. In some cases, the retina can tear as the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the wall of the eye. A torn retina is always a serious problem, since it can lead to a retinal detachment.
The appearance of floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop suddenly. You should see an ophthalmologist right away if you suddenly develop new floaters.
When the vitreous gel inside your eye rubs or pulls on the retina, you may see what looks like flashing lists or lightening streaks. You may have experienced this sensation if you have ever been hit in the eye and see “stars.”
These flashes of light can appear off and on for several weeks or months. As we grow older, it is more common to experience flashes. If you notice the sudden appearance of flashes, you should visit your ophthalmologist immediately because it could mean that the retina has been torn.