Why are there shadows in my vision?

Shadows in your field of vision are usually the result of floaters or flashes in your eye. These floaters appear like small dark dots, flecks or ‘cobwebs’. When they first start, they can be somewhat irritating and frustrating. However, these spots are very common and not usually dangerous.

Normally, if you have had these floaters for a long time and your eyesight is not affected, then you should not worry unduly. Sometimes they will simply disappear and often you will just get used to their presence.

When to seek help

However, you should seek the professional advice of an optician if any of the following symptoms occur: if the floaters or flashes appear suddenly or if there is a sudden increase in their number. Likewise, if your vision becomes blurred or the floater becomes more like a shadow, seek help. Or if you have eye pain or the floaters start after an eye injury or surgery, you need to visit an optician or doctor.

Whilst this condition is usually benign, the above symptoms could indicate a problem at the back of your eye. Quick treatment will help to prevent more serious or permanent damage to your eye. In addition, it will help to reassure you. You will only need treatment if your vision is affected.

Treating eye floaters

Surgery is rarely used for floaters as your brain will learn to ignore them unless the floaters are as a result of another condition. If your floaters are dense and seriously affecting your vision, a vitrectomy, which is a medical procedure that removes floaters from the vitreous, may be offered. However, this operation has a significant risk to vision because of possible complications, which include retinal tears, retinal detachment, and cataract. It is only recommended in extreme cases.

Recently, laser treatment has been used and does present less risk of damage to the eye. Your medical practitioner or optician will recommend the best course of action.

Can floaters be prevented?

The simple answer to this is no. Floaters are part of the natural ageing process and it is just something that most of us learn to live with, especially after the age of 50. As with any eye condition that causes you concern, seek the advice, help, and support of an optician or medical professional.


Always consult a qualified optometrist to confirm a diagnosis!

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