Are New Floaters an Emergency?

by Jun 17, 2024

New onset floaters in the eye can raise questions about their significance and whether urgent medical attention is required. Exploring the nature of floaters, potential underlying causes, associated symptoms, and appropriate management can help individuals differentiate between routine ocular occurrences and emergent eye conditions when experiencing new floaters.


Nature of Floaters

Floaters are small, shadowy particles or specks that drift across a person’s field of vision. These floaters are often caused by age-related changes in the vitreous gel inside the eye, leading to the formation of collagen fibers or cellular debris that cast shadows on the retina. While benign in most cases, sudden appearance of new floaters may warrant evaluation by an eye care professional to rule out serious eye problems.


How Are New Floaters an Emergency 

The sudden onset of new floaters can be attributed to various factors, including posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), retinal tears or detachment, vitreous hemorrhage, intraocular inflammation, or ocular trauma. PVD occurs when the vitreous gel separates from the retina, causing floaters and flashes of light in the affected eye. Retinal tears or detachment can manifest as sudden increase in floaters, accompanied by flashes of light, blurred vision, or shadow-like visual disturbances.


Associated Symptoms and Red Flags

When new floaters are accompanied by other symptoms such as flashes of light, sudden vision changes, curtain-like shadows in the field of vision, eye pain, or loss of peripheral vision, it may indicate a more serious ocular condition that requires prompt evaluation by an eye care specialist. These red flags suggest potential retinal issues or vascular abnormalities that warrant immediate medical attention to prevent vision loss or complications.


Emergency versus Non-Emergency Scenarios

In most cases, isolated new floaters without associated symptoms in an otherwise healthy eye may not constitute a medical emergency but should be monitored over time for any changes or persistence of symptoms. However, if new floaters are sudden, numerous, dense, accompanied by flashes of light, or associated with vision changes, it is crucial to seek urgent ophthalmic evaluation to rule out retinal tears, detachment, or other sight-threatening conditions that demand immediate intervention.


Management and Ocular Evaluation

When experiencing new floaters, scheduling a comprehensive eye examination with an eye care provider is recommended to assess the vitreous structure, retinal health, and overall ocular condition. Through dilated fundus examination, retinal imaging, or optical coherence tomography (OCT), eye care professionals can identify any retinal abnormalities, vitreous pathologies, or underlying ocular issues contributing to new floaters and determine the appropriate management approach based on the findings.


Emergency Care for Retinal Detachment

While most cases of new floaters will not be an emergency, if the new floaters are from a retinal detachment, then treatment will be urgent or emergent based on the severity and the location of the retinal detachment. This treatment will include surgical repair of the tear and detachment as well as restructuring the retina following the repair. If the vision is still clear in the center of the eye, then the surgery will be more emergent given the risk for progression and worsening vision.


Our eye doctors at Neal Eye Group in Conshohocken, PA excel in the prescription of contact lenses, glasses and various eye diseases.  Call our optometrists at (610) 828-9701 or schedule an appointment online if you would like to learn more about whether new floaters are an emergency? and if you notice a sudden increase in floaters.  Our optometrists provide the highest quality optometry services and eye exams in Conshohocken, Norristown, Plymouth Meeting, Lafayette Hill, and Philadelphia.

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