Eye Floaters: Why Am I Seeing Black Spots in My Vision?

Black spots in your vision can be quite annoying, but in most cases, there’s nothing to worry about. Getting eye floaters in your vision at random times is a part of the normal ageing process.

In this post, we’ll have a look at what are eye floaters, when you should be concerned about seeing black spots, and how to get rid of them.

What Are Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters or black spots are small spots that appear to be drifting through your field of vision. Sometimes they are hardly noticeable, but they do tend to stand out when you focus your eyes on a bright surface, such as a white wall or the clear blue sky. If you try to focus on a black spot, they will generally float away.

Although black spots in your vision can be disturbing, they won’t interfere with your sight. Only if you get a larger black spot it could cast a shadow on your field of vision.

What Do Eye Floaters Look Like?

Eye floaters are commonly referred to as black spots, but that’s not the only shape they take. They can appear as gray dots, and since they’re lighter in color, they’re less noticeable and less irritating.

Also, eye floaters can show as squiggly lines floating in your field of vision. Or they can take the shape of a small piece of cobweb, a ring, or a thread strand.

What Causes Eye Floaters?

Your eye is filled with a gel-like substance known as the vitreous humour, or vitreous for short. The vitreous accounts for 80% of the eye’s volume and it’s what gives it its round shape. It’s made of 99% water, with the remaining 1% consisting of collagen fibers, proteins, salt, and sugar.

The vitreous humour is kept in place by tiny collagen fibers that anchor it to the base of the eye, as well as the retina and the optic nerve at the back of the eye.

Age-Related Black Floaters

As you age, the protein fibers in the vitreous start to shrink. When these microscopic strands clump together, they create eye floaters, which block the light going into your eye. This explains the tiny shadows associated with black spots.

Age-related black floaters in the eye are more common after 50. People who are nearsighted or have had cataract surgery are more likely to experience them. With time, you’ll get used to these eye floaters and they won’t bother you much.

On the other hand, if you suddenly get numerous eye floaters or experience flashlights in your vision, you should see a doctor.

Retinal Detachment

While the odd black spot is normal, if you experience a sudden increase in eye floaters you need to have an eye check-up right away, as this might be a symptom of a torn retina.

The retina is crucial for your eyesight. It’s made of a thin layer of light-sensitive nerve cells. The retina captures light signals and transmits them to the brain, which decodes the information and tells you what you are seeing.

If the vitreous humour sticks to the retina, normal eye movement can put pressure on it. This leads to a torn retina, which, left untreated, can lead to retinal detachment. When the retina is out of place, your vision becomes blurry and you may lose sight in that eye altogether.

The early symptoms of retinal detachment are:

  • Seeing multiple new black spots at the same time
  • Noticing flashing lights at the sides of your field of vision
  • Experiencing a shadow in your peripheral field of vision or a gray curtain covering your entire field of vision.

If you notice one or more of the above symptoms, it’s important to schedule an eye test.

closeup of human eye

Diabetic Retinopathy

If you have diabetes, you are at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. According to a US study, 2 out of 5 people with diabetes have some form of diabetic retinopathy. This is triggered by the damage to the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye caused by high blood sugar levels.

When the damaged blood vessels bleed into the vitreous humour, the blood cells are perceived as floaters.

Other signs of diabetic retinopathy include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulties perceiving colors
  • Dark spot at the center of the field of vision
  • Streaks blocking part of your field of vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Sudden blindness in one or both eyes

Diabetes also increases the risk of developing glaucoma or cataracts. If you have diabetes, you should have regular full eye dilation tests. Treatment options for diabetic retinopathy include eye surgery, laser intervention, or eye injections to minimize blood leakage into the eye.

Eye Inflammation

Posterior uveitis is a rare disease characterized by inflammation at the back of the eye. This may cause inflammatory debris to float inside the vitreous and appear as black spots. The condition can be caused by various types of infections or inflammatory diseases.

Treatment for posterior uveitis depends on the nature of the underlying problem. Once the inflammation at the back of the eye is resolved, the black spots will disappear.

Bleeding in the Eye

Bleeding into the eye is most often associated with diabetes, but it can have other causes, too. For instance, hypertension or an eye injury can lead to bleeding at the back of the eye and eye floaters may appear as a result. For this type of black spot, treatment depends on the nature of the underlying issue.

How to Get Rid of Eye Floaters

Most of the time people simply ignore the black spots in their vision. If you’re concerned that you might have something in your eye, such as a floater, just turn your eyes to a bright surface, like a white sheet of paper, a white wall, or the sky. This will allow you to observe the floater clearly.

The easiest way to get rid of an eye floater is to try to look at it. As you do that, the eye movement causes a shift in the vitreous humour which will push the floater outside your field of vision. Another trick is to move your eyes rapidly, preferably up and down rather than side to side.

Left alone, the eye floaters will disappear on their own as gravity pulls them to the bottom of the eye and out of your field of vision. If you develop a large and persistent eye floater, you might need laser treatment to dissolve it. Eye floaters treatment is known as vitreolysis.

human eye close up

How to Prevent Black Spots in Your Vision

There’s little you can do about age-related eye floaters. But you can take care of your overall eye health with a good diet, exercise, and keeping your weight under control. Also, quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake can prevent damage to the eyes.

Don’t forget to add the right fruits to your diet such as blueberries or goji berries, and eat superfoods that sustain eye health.

If you have sensitive eyes, make sure to wear sunglasses when going out. At the same time, give your eyes a rest at regular intervals. Keeping your eyes closed for a few minutes every now and then is a great way to rest your eyes, but the most important thing is to take your eyes off any type of screen.

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