What is seeing spots?

Seeing spots, which are often called floaters, means that you are seeing objects that look like small specks, circles or strands floating in your visual field. These spots or floaters are located within the eye itself and generally move with your eyes, although they also drift on their own. The spots are most noticeable when you are looking at a plain background. In rare cases, eye complications of diabetes may cause spots in your vision, but such spots do not float or drift.

Eye Problems Spotlight

Spots or floaters originate in the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the back portion of your eyeball. The proteins in the vitreous sometimes form clumps that are perceived as spots or floaters. Although floaters may be present at any age, they become more common as you get older, as the vitreous gel shrinks and aggregates. The vitreous is attached loosely to the retina, the light-sensing layer at the back of the eye.

The shrinkage of the vitreous may actually detach it from the retina. This condition, called posterior vitreous detachment, is very common in older people and is not harmful in itself. However, it increases the risk of retinal detachment, a sight-threatening condition in which the retina, the light-sensing layer of the eye, detaches from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients. Retinal detachment occurs painlessly, and its hallmark symptom is a sudden increase in seeing spots and flashing lights.

Seeing spots may also occur with migraines. Seeing spots or floaters generally does not interfere with your vision, although the floaters may be annoying or distracting. However, a sudden increase in floaters and seeing flashing lights may signal retinal detachment. Contact your health care provider if you suddenly start seeing more spots than usual.

The observation of spots or floaters generally does not indicate a serious medical condition. However, a sudden increase may signal retinal detachment, a life-threatening condition that requires urgent treatment. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you experience a sudden increase in the observation of spots or floaters, particularly if this is associated with flashes of light or the perception of a darkened area at the side of your vision.

Seek prompt medical care if your spots or floaters are persistent or cause you concern.


What other symptoms might occur with seeing spots?

Seeing spots most often occurs as a solitary symptom, though it occasionally accompanies other symptoms.

Other symptoms that may occur along with seeing spots

Seeing spots may accompany other symptoms including:

  • Headache
  • Seeing flashes of light

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, s... Read more about seeing spotssymptoms


What causes seeing spots?

Seeing spots or floaters is due to the clumping of proteins in the vitreous, a gel-like substance in the back portion of the eye. This process occurs most commonly as a result of aging, which causes shrinking of the vitreous and aggregation of its proteins. The shrinkage may lead to posterior vitreous detachment, which increases the risk of retinal detachment. However, clumps of protein in the ... Read more about seeing spotscauses

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 8, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision

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