“There’s a fly in my soup!”
No… wait, that’s not a fly. It’s a floater. What are floaters? And why do we get them?
Floaters are a symptom of the natural aging of the vitreous gel in the eye. Our eyeballs are filled with gel, and as we grow older, the gel becomes more liquid. When this happens, floaters develop. They are a type of scar tissue that develops in the gel. Floaters appear as dark spots that move around in the vision with eye movements. Sometimes they move a lot and sometimes not at all. They can look like almost any shape, from little bugs to long strands or veils in the vision. Most of us get used to our floaters. They can become less apparent and even “disappear.” We usually see floaters by the age of 65, but not everybody notices all of them.
However, floaters can signify that something more is going on in the eye than just natural aging. For example, a lot of new floaters or a sudden onset of floaters and flashes of light may indicate that a hole or tear has developed in the retina.
Flashes of light are a warning sign that the vitreous gel is causing traction on the retina. As the gel liquefies and floaters develop, the gel can pull and tug on the retina with eye movements. When the retina is pulled, it gives off a flash of light. The pulling and tugging of the retina can lead to holes or tears. Holes and tears can lead to retinal detachments. Therefore, seeing light flashes is an urgent sign that you need to have your eyes examined in order to detect possible holes or tears in a timely fashion before they develop into a retinal detachment.
Floaters and flashes of light can happen after blunt trauma or for no apparent reason at all. Most of the time, they can dissipate over time without intervention. However, any flashes of light, new floaters, or worsening of old floaters should alert you to call your eye doctor for an examination.
A little floater that looks like a fly is usually nothing to worry about unless it is actually a fly in your soup. Then you call your waiter!
Bio: Dr. Selina Lin is a Retina Specialist at Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida. She sees patients at the Haines City, Sebring, and Winter Haven locations. To learn more about Dr. Lin or Eye Specialists of Mid-Florida, visit us online at EYESFL.COM or call 800-282-3937 to schedule an appointment.