Many patients come into our office with the initial complaint of a new “black spot” or “spider web” in their vision. This can be a very scary thing, especially if this has never happened to you before. These new black spots in our vision are often referred to as floaters. It helps to understand exactly what they are as well as the signs and symptoms of more visually threatening conditions that can also be associated with a new floater.
The back of the eye is filled with a jelly like substance called vitreous. The vitreous is attached to the retina in many different areas. As we get older, the vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the retina. When part of the vitreous detaches from the retina, this is called a posterior vitreous detachment or PVD. The most common symptom of a PVD is a new floater or a black spot in your vision. As the vitreous is pulling away from the retina, many patients also experience flashes of light in their vision. This symptom usually lessens after the PVD has occurred.
Because floaters are very common and there are usually no significant visual problems associated with them, treatment is often not necessary. In a small number of patients, the spots in their vision are so degrading that the vitreous is surgically removed.
There are a few symptoms that you should always pay very close attention to if you experience new floaters. If your floaters are greater in number and associated with severe flashes or a loss of vision that is commonly described as a “curtain” over your vision, you may have a retinal detachment. This is not a common occurrence but as the vitreous pulls away from the retina, complications can arise.
We always recommend that you have your doctor perform a complete dilated eye examination with all new floaters, even if you have experienced them before. Although severe retinal complications are rare, early detection is important!
If you or a member of your family are experiencing similar symptoms, call us today to schedule an appointment!