Your eyes might be the windows to your soul, but they are also indicators of serious health issues. If you noticing a small, cobweb-like or spotty and shadowy shape in your field of vision that seems to float around, the chances are that you have a retinal floater. You might not think much of this minor annoyance since it tends to be most noticeable when you’re looking at a bright object or into a bright light. There is, however, cause for concern when you start to frequently notice retinal floaters. The following are four crucial reasons that you should immediately seek treatment for a retinal floater.
1. Infections Can Develop
Retinal floaters result when vitreous in the eye shrinks, which tends to happen as we get older. Floaters usually gravitate toward the bottom of the eye and settle at an area below the line of vision. Therefore, they are usually not too bothersome. However, they can cause the retina to become infected and inflamed. This leads to blurred vision and can be indicative of an invading microbe that is causing infectious retinitis. Treatment is usually effective at erasing the infection if it is caught early enough. If floaters are detected early and receive proper treatment, there is a good chance that your vision will not be permanently impaired. If symptoms are left untreated, retinal detachment can occur and leave lasting damage to your vision.
2. Retinal Detachment Can Occur
If left untreated, retinal floaters can eventually lead to retinal detachment in serious cases. When the retina, which is located at the back of the eye wall, is lifted or pulled away from its usual spot, it can actually become detached, according to Retina Associates. Those who have nearsightedness, have had cataract surgery or an eye injury, or who have a family history of retinal detachment are considered to be at risk for retinal detachment. If you are noticing multiple retinal floaters in your field of vision, you could potentially experience retinal detachment. Those who do not seek treatment early on risk experiencing permanent visual impairment.
3. Hemorrhaging in the Vitreous
Retinal floaters can also indicate that there is bleeding in the vitreous. A vitreous hemorrhage can be caused by abnormal retinal blood vessels, rupturing of normal blood vessels, or bleeding from adjacent areas. Floaters are one of the most common indicators that vitreous bleeding is occurring. In the earlier stages of bleeding, retinal floaters will appear cobweb-like, hazy, or have a red tint to them. As bleeding becomes more severe, scotomas (visual blind-spots) and loss of visual acuity develop and worsen. Vitreous hemorrhaging is easy to detect, and if a retinal detachment has occurred or the bleeding does not stop, a vitrectomy can be performed. Of course, early detection can prevent symptoms from worsening and surgery from becoming a necessity.
4. Eye Cancer Might Exist
In addition to trouble seeing properly, losing part of your field of vision, seeing flashes of light, or experiencing dark spots on your iris, retinal floaters can indicate the presence of eye cancer. Eye cancer progresses through four stages, and the earlier the cancer is in these stages, the better the prognosis for treating and beating eye cancer. The sooner eye cancer is detected and treated, the better chance you and your cancer care team have at saving your vision and regaining and maintaining good eye health. The longer the cancerous growths go untreated, the more likely it is that your vision will be permanently damaged even if the cancer is eventually eradicated.
Retinal floaters might not seem like much of a nuisance, but they are often indicators of much more serious eye health issues. You might feel silly asking your doctor about the squiggly lines you are seeing, but it is far better to ask a weird question or end up actually having nothing seriously wrong than to risk losing your vision to retinal detachment or eye cancer.