What are floaters or spider webs?

Seeing floaters & spider webs in your vision can be a concerning sign that can indicate potential retinal issues, especially if accompanied by flashing lights. Eye floaters often consist of specks or strings that appear to move through a field of vision without corresponding to external objects. While they are fairly common, there are circumstances where floaters can be a cause for concern.


Eye floaters appear when an object in the eyeball casts a shadow on the retina. This is interpreted by the brain as an object floating in one’s external field of vision. It may appear that one is seeing a swarm of insects such as gnats that are not actually present. The most common cause of eye floaters and spider webs is a change in the vitreous humor, the jellylike substance that fills the eyeball. In early adulthood, the shrinking of the vitreous humor may cause floating strands to appear in the field of vision of one or both eyes. These floaters are rarely indicative of something harmful. In older adults, as the vitreous humor continues to shrink it may tug on the retina from time to time, giving the illusion of flashing lights. Over time, the vitreous humor will detach entirely from the retina as a normal part of aging.


There may be a more serious cause to seeing floaters or spider webs in one’s vision, though these cases are less common. Retinal detachment or tearing, as well as bleeding or inflammation of the vitreous humor can also cause floaters. Floaters that are due to these causes need to be treated immediately to avoid permanent vision loss. If you are experiencing floaters alongside other symptoms such as eye pain or redness, have recently undergone eye surgery, see a sudden increase in floaters, or have a complete or partial loss of vision, seek care immediately.


If you are experiencing floaters or spiderwebs in your vision and are concerned, visit your optometrist for a full eye exam.


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