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Have you noticed small black spots or tiny flecks in your vision, particularly when you look at bright, plain coloured backgrounds, like a white wall or the sky?
What are floaters?
You might have noticed small black spots or tiny flecks in your vision, particularly when you look at bright, plain coloured backgrounds, like a white wall or the sky. They can also look like little threads, squiggly lines or cobwebs, and are known as floaters. Most floaters are nothing to worry about, but there are certain instances where you should perhaps be a little more concerned and get them checked out by an eye expert. The majority of floaters are caused by changes in the eye’s vitreous. This is the jelly-like substance in your eye and, as you age, it becomes more liquid in consistency. This allows tiny fibres in the vitreous to clump together, causing small shadows which are seen as floaters.
What causes them?
Lots of people, particularly older people, get floaters and flashes. They're usually caused by a harmless process called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), which happens as you get older. Sometimes they can be caused by retinal detachment. This is a serious condition where a thin layer that sends signals to the brain (the retina) pulls away from the back of the eye. It can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated. Floaters and flashes can also happen for no obvious reason.
Should I be worried?
Experiencing floaters in your vision, especially if you are over 50 is not usually a sign of anything serious, especially if you have had them for a long time, they're not getting worse and your vision is not affected. Floaters often become less noticeable as you get used to them.
When to seek medical advice?
If you experience any of the signs below it could be an indication of a serious problem with the back of your eye, which could permanently affect your vision if it's not treated quickly. You can dial NHS Direct on 111 or online and they will tell you what to do and tell you the right place to get help if you need to see someone.
If floaters appear suddenly or increase in number
If you notice a dark "curtain" or shadow moving across your vision
If you develop blurred vision
If you have eye pain and floaters start after eye surgery or an eye injury