Small floaters are caused by normal changes to the gel of the eye, called the vitreous. As you age, the gel shifts to a more liquid state, and collagen fibers clump together and cast shadows on the retina. That’s why you’ll notice them more when looking at a bright background (like when riding the chairlift on a bluebird day).
Larger cobweb-like floaters, a sudden increase in the amount of floaters or flashing lights is more concerning. These can be signs that the vitreous has pulled away from the retina, causing a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). PVDs are quite common, in fact 60% of 60 year olds will get them, and if it happens in one eye, it is very likely to happen in the fellow eye. The larger floaters from PVDs often break up or shrink, and your brain won’t notice them as often. It’s very important to see an optometrist when you notice new floaters. At FYi-Doctors, our comprehensive eye exams include a thorough dilated examination and a 200-degree Optomap retinal photo. These help detect floaters, PVDs, retinal holes, tears or detachments. Although rare, some PVDs can tug on the retina, causing a retinal tear. If that occurs, prompt detection is key, as it needs to be treated right away!
Dr. Ashala Mah, Optometrist
4292 Dunbar Street
Vancouver, BC V6S 2E9