Eye Floaters: When Are They Important?

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Eye floaters, those little black things that float across your field of vision, can be annoying but are often harmless. Most people notice a few floaters at some point in their lifetimes. However, if you suddenly develop a group of floaters or a floater affects your vision, it can indicate a health problem that requires you be checked by an ophthalmologist. 

Eye Floaters

Although you probably ignore most eye floaters, when you do notice them, they can appear as squiggly lines, cobwebs, or threads. Sometimes, you may just see dark dots or rings. If you have a particularly annoying floater, you should know it may never go away completely, but it will fade and/or you will learn to ignore it.

Floaters are made up of bits of collagen that collect in the vitreous, a clear gel in the back of your eye. In most cases, these floaters are harmless. People who are extremely myopic, or nearsighted, tend to have more of these floaters than other people, but as long as they do not interfere with your vision, you should not be concerned.

Eye Conditions

In some instances, floaters can indicate a serious eye condition. For instance, those suffering from diabetic retinopathy can experience numerous floaters due to problems with the blood vessels in the retina. Blood can leak and create floaters. 

An increased number of floaters, often accompanied by flashes of light, can also indicate a detached retina. When part of the vitreous gel tugs on the retina, occasionally a tear can occur. When this fluid causes enough pressure on the retina, it can cause it to detach, a serious condition that requires prompt medical attention, including surgery. If the retina is not repaired within a few days, you can suffer permanent vision loss. 

Other serious eye conditions, including syphilis, toxoplasmosis, and various inflammatory diseases can also cause floaters. 

Eye floaters are usually just dark blobs and threads that move across your eye, but rarely impede your sight. However, if you notice a sudden increase in floaters or your vision becomes impaired by them, you need to immediately see your ophthalmologist. They can screen your eyes for signs of serious eye conditions that can permanently damage your sight. You should not panic if you have a few of these often "worm-like" visitors, but any change in your vision needs to be checked out. 

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