Medical Definition of Eyes, spots in front of the

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Eyes, spots in front of the: Also known as "floaters", blurry spots that drift in front of the eyes but do not block vision. The blur is the result of debris from the vitreous casting a shadow on the retina. The spot is the image formed by a deposit of protein drifting about in the vitreous, the clear gel that fills the middle of the eye.

Floaters are often described by patients as spots, strands, or little flies. Some patients even want to use a fly-swatter to eliminate these pesky floaters.

Floaters are usually benign (not serious). They can result from a separation of the vitreous gel from the retina. This condition is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Although a PVD occurs commonly, there are no retinal tears associated with the condition most of the time.

No treatments are available for floaters although they tend to become less annoying over time. Remember also that floaters are usually not associated with serious eye problems.

Permanent or recurring white or black spots in the same area of your field of vision may, however, be an early warning sign of cataracts or another serious eye problem. If you experience a shadow or curtain that affects any part of your vision, this can indicate that a retinal tear has occurred and has progressed to a detached retina. In this situation, you should immediately consult an ophthalmologist since time is of the essence.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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