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What are those dark spots I'm seeing in my eyes?

Dr. Michelle Calder-Cardwell is the owner and lead optometrist at
Urban Optiques Vision & Eyewear in Northville, MI.

Q. A few years ago, I started seeing little lines and spots swimming through my line of vision. Over time they’ve become worse and are starting to really bug me. Lately, I’ve noticed they’re making it difficult for me to read. What are these dark spots and is there anything I can do to get rid of them?

A. If you notice dark specks, lines, or blobs swimming in front of your eyes, you’re probably seeing eye floaters. These are tiny fibers that move around in the gel-like fluid, or vitreous humor, between your lens and retina. As they travel around in your eye, the specks cast shadows on the retina, creating dark spots, or floaters. Believe it or not, what you’re experiencing is very common. Most of us will see floaters at some point in our lives, especially as we age. They can be annoying, but the good news is that floaters are seldom anything to worry about.

There are currently no medications available for treating floaters, but some people swear by natural remedies like relieving stress through yoga, cutting out caffeine, and maintaining a magnesium-rich diet to get rid of the pesky spots. So far, no studies have shown that these methods are effective.

In severe cases, floaters are treated through one of two surgical procedures: laser treatment, which involves zapping and actually vaporizing the floater, and Vitrectomy, which drains and replaces the vitreous fluid in the eyes. There are risks associated with both procedures, so it’s important to learn as much as you can about the benefits and dangers before opting for surgery.

Even without treatment, your brain may adjust and you won’t even notice the floaters any more. In some cases they just go away on their own. However, unusual changes in your vision can be a sign that a more serious eye problem is present. If you notice a significant increase in the number of floaters, they begin to interfere with your vision, or you see the specks along with light flashes, you should see your eye doctor right away.

To maintain healthy eyes, be sure to see your VSP doctor every year for a comprehensive eye exam. And be sure to mention it if you are noticing floaters or any other changes in your vision.