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Located on W. Drake Rd. in Ft. Collins West of Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital

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Home » Your Eye Health » Conditions » Floaters and Spots

Floaters and Spots

If you see specks or what appears to be debris, or perhaps pieces of lint floating in your vision, these are “floaters”. They are usually harmless. They would be seen most easily while looking at a plain background, like a white wall or clear sky.

Floaters are in reality clumps of gel-like cells inside the vitreous – the clear, jelly-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye. Floaters look like webs, specks, strands, and other shapes. What you are seeing are in fact the shadows of floaters cast on the retina, the light-sensitive inner lining of the back eye panel.

Symptoms of Spots or Floaters

With a special eye light, your doctor will detect floaters in your eyes even if you don’t notice them yourself. If a shadowy shape or spot passes in your field of vision or near the side, you are seeing a floater. Because they are inside your eye and suspended within the gel-vitreous, they move with your eyes as you scan and try to see them.

What Causes The Spots or Floaters?

Some floaters are present forever as part of the eye’s development. Others can grow over time.

In middle age, the gel-vitreous begins to liquefy and contracts. Some parts of the vitreous form clumps or strands inside the eye. The vitreous pulls away from the back eye-wall causing a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). PVD is a common cause of floaters.

Floaters are more common:

  • With nearsightedness
  • After cataract surgery
  • After laser surgery of the eye
  • During or after inflammation in the eye

Treatment for Spots and Floaters

As mentioned above, most spots and floaters are harmless and only annoy the visual field. Many fade away on their own to become insignificant. Some doctors may perform surgery to remove floaters, but this should be advised only in rare cases.

Flashes of Light

Flashes of light occur often in older people and are usually due to mechanical stimulation of photoreceptors when the gel-like vitreous “pulls” on the light-sensitive retina. They may be an early warning sign predicting a detached retina – a serious problem which could lead to blindness if not treated immediately.

Some experiences of light flashes appear as jagged lines or “wavy heat” in both eyes, lasting 10-20 minutes. These types of flashes are usually caused by a spasm of the blood vessels in the brain, also called a migraine. If a headache follows the flashes, these are known as migraine headaches. Jagged lines or “heat waves” however can and do occur without a headache. These light flashes are called an ophthalmic migraine -a migraine without a headache.

Are Spots Flashes, or Floaters Emergencies?

The sudden appearance of significant numbers of floaters, especially if accompanied by flashes of light or other vision disturbances, could indicate a retinal detachment or other serious problem in the eye. A study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2009 found that one in seven people with the sudden presence of eye floaters and flashes will have a retinal tear or detachment. If you suddenly see floaters, visit your eye doctor immediately.

As of Tuesday evening, March 17th, the CDC has recommended that all routine eye care be deferred until further notice, in order to slow the transmission of COVID-19 through our community. We will follow their recommendations and close our office to regular eye exams until further notice.

Please be assured that we are still available to triage all urgent and emergent issues as well as help you with routine matters during this challenging time.

What does this mean?

1) If you are scheduled for an annual eye examination our office will contact you to reschedule
2) If you need to replace glasses or contact lenses and need an extension on your prescription, please contact us and we will assist you in obtaining some until you can come in for a visit.
3) If you are running out of medication please contact us and we can transmit a refill electronically to your pharmacy.
4) If you have an ocular emergency we are, as always, available to help you at any time. Call us at 970-221-4811.
5) If you have an issue that cannot wait for an office visit, contact us and we will schedule a FaceTime, Skype or telephone appointment with one of our doctors. Medicare has temporarily relaxed its telehealth rules to allow this type of communication during the pandemic crisis. Other insurers may follow suit and allow for reimbursement of virtual care costs. The consultation must be initiated at your request.
6) During this period of social distancing and quarantine, we must all do our part by restricting activities outside the home except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.
7) Please remember that 80% of COVID-19 cases are mild and resolve within a week. However, if you feel your symptoms are worsening, call ahead before visiting your doctor’s office or emergency department and tell them you have or may have COVID-19. This will help the office protect themselves and other patients.

The CDC has many wonderful resources. Arming yourself and your family with clear information will help you avoid undue stress.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/prevention.html https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/managing-stress-anxiety.html

We have asked our staff to stay home until further notice to protect them, our patients, our city, our nation, and our planet. Despite the financial and emotional hardships this will cause, we ask every one of you to do the same.

Together we will weather this storm.

With sincerest wishes for your continued good health, we remain at your service,

Eyecare Associates