Eye Exams - Eye Conditions

What are Floaters?


Floaters (or spots) are particles which float inside the eye and cast shadows on the 
light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye (the Retina) reducing vision. Usually 
nothing more than a nuisance, floaters can result from eye disease or injury and need to
 be assessed by your optometrist.


Background


Your eyes are filled with fluid and a clear jelly called the Vitreous. Often tiny remains 
of blood vessels are left floating or suspended in the vitreous when the eyes are 
formed before birth. This is normal and can go unnoticed. In older eyes, strands of 
protein can develop, and if these particles are large enough, they are seen as floaters.


Are floaters common?

Most people see floaters some time during their life. As you get older, the thick fluid
 close to the retina becomes more liquid. This allows particles to move freely and
 shadows are sometimes seen. If you think you occasionally see floaters and notice an 
increase in their number or size, you should consult your optometrist for further
 advice and tests.


What do floaters look like?


Floaters vary greatly in appearance. Some are only just noticeable while others may
be particularly disturbing drifting across your field of vision. They may appear as 
spots, thread-like strands, fine cobwebs or just as dull shadows. The shadows cast by
 floaters seem especially obvious when looking at the sky or a white page. In fact, 
they are always present, but are sometimes more noticeable.


How do I know if I have floaters?


Because floaters move as the eye moves, they dart away when you try to look at 
them. Your optometrist is trained at detecting floaters and will tell you about them
 during an eye examination. Sometimes, your optometrist will detect floaters which are
 not visible to you. 
Occasionally, general health problems may be associated with the development of
 floaters. If your optometrist finds any sign of eye disease, it may be recommended
 that you see your family doctor or an ophthalmologist.


Can floaters cause blindness?


Though commonly observed and usually normal, the sudden development of floaters
 may indicate a more serious eye problem. If a curtain-like shadow or large black
cobweb-like image suddenly appears, it is essential you have an eye examination
 urgently.


What about flashing lights?


Light flashes in the eye are occasionally seen in dim light by people of any age and 
usually this is nothing to worry about. These flashes, however, can sometimes be an 
early sign of serious eye disease such as incipient retinal detachment. Whether young
 or old, an urgent eye examination is necessary if flashing lights suddenly occur.


Can migraines affect my vision?


Yes. A range of visual disturbances are associated with migraines. Signs of a migraine 
can include shimmering lights, wavy lines and a restriction in fields of vision.
 Symptoms can last between 15 to 30 minutes are usually followed by a severe
 headache and feelings of nausea. Visual symptoms similar to those preceding a
 migraine headache may also occur when a person has a disease of the vascular system.
 This should be investigated if there has been no migraine prior to the age of forty.

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