Seeing Spots: When To Be Concerned

| Well Being

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Spots popping up in your vision may definitely raise the alarm, especially for those of you out there blessed with 20/20 vision. Let's face the truth though, ladies. Regardless of what we eat, or how much we work out and commit ourselves to our healthy lifestyles, we are going to age! Eye floaters, flashes in our vision, and spots popping up every now and then are fairly common afflictions, and are typically not detrimental to our wellbeing. However, if you have found that you've been suffering an increase in eye floaters, flashes or spots, it may be time to call your doctor for a quick checkup!

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What are you seeing? Over time, the vitreous gel that coats our eyes liquefies, and little clumps of the gel break loose and float in the watery substance. Most people will notice that there are spots or an indistinct blurriness to their vision, especially when they are staring at a bright light such as the sun or a computer monitor. In essence, as the light strikes our eyes, it reflects off of these tiny pieces of debris and creates a shadow. That shadow, rather than the floaters, it what causes the spots.

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The aging process: As we age, the vitreous gel within our eyes thickens or thins, which can lead to the formation of clumps or strands. We classify these little buggers as eye floaters, and in most cases they are completely harmless. They are nothing more than the bits of gel that have not dissolved fully. However, in rare cases, the shrinking of the vitreous gel can wear on the retina and can result in either a macular hole (which can impair our central vision) or a detached retina. This spurs an increase in floaters and can cause flashes in your vision as well. Retina tears in particular, which are often  accompanied with flashes or stars in your vision, can be threatening to your sight, so if you suspect an issue, it is essential that you seek out medical attention.

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The treatment options: According to research, it is estimated that more than half of all people will have had a vitreous detachment by the time they are 80 years old, and in most cases they little floaters will be virtually harmless. However, for those who do indeed suffer a retinal tear or a macular hole, there are treatment options available. For floaters or spots that are seriously impacting your vision, the most common treatment is a procedure called a vitrectomy. In these cases, the vitreous gel is actually taken from your eye so that a surgeon can remove any debris. For retinal tears, many experts recommend retinal detachment surgery. This involves a more in-depth procedure where specialists utilize laser or freezing treatment (also referred to as cryotherapy) in order to mend the tear and inhibit any more lasting damage to the retina.

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Keep in mind that in the majority of cases, these spots and floaters are completely normal, especially as we age. However, if you have noticed that your symptoms have worsened or your eyesight is failing, we definitely recommend contacting your eye doctor for more information! You can check out our sources here: All About Vision, Eye Institute: Vision Correction Specialists, National Eye Institute, Retina Specialty Institute.