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What are those black spots you're seeing in your field of vision?

By Judith Whitehead - Contributing Writer

We are all born with an eye that is filled with what is called the vitreous; it is in a gel form. As we age, the gel begins to liquefy. Some notice this process more than others.

If someone looks up into the light, they may notice these various shaped squiggles in many forms. Some “floaters” are small, large, dark or more clear-like.

Floaters in themselves do not pose a danger; as our vitreous gel liquefies, we will begin to notice them less. After the liquefying process is done, which may take several months, they will become less bothersome.

What people see in their vision are not actually the floaters themselves but the shadow the floater is casting in the eye.

Don't ignore specs or flashes of light in your field of vision, Judith Whitehead says.

Floaters are part of the aging process but can be precipitated by many things. Lifting heavy things, moving objects, straining the body by shoveling snow or lifting weights are just a few acts that can bring on floaters.

A recent trip out West, carrying heavy suitcases, precipitated many floaters in my husband's field of vision.

When a person sees many floaters at once, along with possible flashing lights, this is a reason to get checked by an eye care professional. A dilated eye evaluation is necessary to check on the retina and inside structures of the eye.

If the gel starts to tug on the wall of the retina, flashing lights occur. If the gel tugs too hard, a retinal tear or hole may happen and will need immediate medical attention by an ophthalmologist or surgeon. A retinal hole or tear will threaten good vision. If not repaired soon, the outcome will be greatly affected in maintaining good vision.

If someone has symptoms of a “curtain” coming over the vision, there is no time to waste. Seek medical help immediately. If the entire part of the retina, called the macula, separates from the wall of the retina, vision will be affected and will vary the outcome greatly if not reattached surgically right away.

Surgical intervention may be done using a “gas bubble” method, or surgery by a specialist in the retina. Both procedures require post-op limited activity and a great deal of time in the “head down” position to promote healing.

Don't ignore symptoms of showering floaters and/or many light flashes. The outcome of recovering good vision decreases and becomes more difficult the longer you wait.

Judith Whitehead, of East Amherst, is a certified ophthalmic technician.


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