Is it normal to be seeing spots, even when my eyes are open?

February 6, 2014

“Floaters” might be the reason you’re seeing spots. But just in case there’s more to it, you should make an appointment to see your optometrist.

Although it can be annoying, seeing spots is often not serious. However, it is better to consult an optometrist or an ophthalmologist immediately if these spots appear suddenly. According to the Canadian Association of Ophthalmology, most of the time these foreign bodies, perceived as black dots, are called "floaters".

What are floaters?

Floaters are small gelatinous masses that float in the vitreous humor, which is the transparent viscous fluid in the eye. The fluid fills the entire portion of the eye cavity located behind the lens. These floating bodies are, in fact, clumps of dead cells. They are most often seen in very bright light or when you look at light surfaces. They usually follow the movement of the eyes with a slight delay. Floaters are seen as shadows by the retina. Numbers and sizes may vary.

Floaters appearing in your field of vision can take on different shapes:

  • black spots (islands or circles)
  • black lines or blobs
  • cobwebs

Should these spots be taken seriously?

Most cases of floaters are not serious. Even though seeing spots can be very unpleasant for the person experiencing them, all that is required is a bit of patience. Over time, the human brain adjusts to the presence of the floaters and stops paying attention to them.

However, if a lot of spots appear suddenly, over a short period of time, the problem may be caused by a more serious condition. You should consult an eye specialist immediately. A hole, tear, or retinal detachment is possible, or it could be a sign of bleeding in the vitreous humor.

Often the emergence and rapid accumulation of floaters are due to the separation of the vitreous humor from the retina. Indeed, with age, the vitreous humor shrinks and tends to separate from the retina. After the age of 50, almost one person in two will experience this phenomenon. But the retina can sometimes tear or become detached; some type of intervention will be necessary in those cases. During an eye examination, a few drops will be administered to the eye in order to dilate the pupil so the vitreous humor and retina can be checked.

Keep an eye on your eye health

You’re not seeing spots? That’s no reason to neglect your eye health. According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, you should have your eyes checked at regular intervals, depending on your age.

  • Young children should have their eyes checked before starting kindergarten.
  • School-age children from 6 to 19 years old should have an eye exam once a year.
  • Adults aged 20 to 64 years should be tested once a year, or once every two years.
  • Adults over 65 should see an optometrist or ophthalmologist annually.
Is it normal to be seeing spots, even when my eyes are open?
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