18 | www. Char l es tonPhys i c i ans . com | www.Hea l thL i nksChar l es ton . com Are you bothered by what might be described as cobwebs, swirling amoebas, dancing squigglies or strange black dots every time you open your eyes? Do flashes of light that seem to originate somewhere inside your head remind you of Independence Day fireworks? If your line of sight is interrupted by these unwelcome issues, you’re not alone. Floaters and flashes are common maladies that become increasingly prevalent as you age. And though there’s a chance that they might be no more than an inconvenience, it’s entirely possible that they could be a sign that trouble brewing in your eyes has the potential to cause long-term damage and even blindness. Regardless of what shape it takes, a floater is “a spot in our vision that moves and floats when you move your eye,” according to Dr. Brad Bodkin, the founder and owner of The Vision Center at Seaside Farms in Mount Pleasant. He said floaters are caused most frequently when the vitreous, or gel, that fills the back of the eye pulls away from the retina, the light-sensitive layer of tissue that communicates information about images to your brain. Dr. Eric Nelson of Carolina Vision Associates in Upstate South Carolina pointed out that the vitreous, which is firm at birth, tends to deteriorate over time, causing pieces to break off and create those optical annoyances. Both optometrists agreed that there are limited treatments for floaters, though Dr. Bodkin said that procedures with lasers may work “in some cases.” Usually, though, once you notice floaters, they’ll probably never leave you completely. Dr. Nelson said over time, gravity pulls them toward the bottom of your eye and possibly out of your field of vision. “The further down they are, the less likely you are going to notice them. But they won’t sink all the way to the bottom. It depends on the starting point. A piece of the vitreous is only going to fall so far.” “They are always present, but our brain learns to tune them out,” Dr. Bodkin noted. “You don’t notice them as much as you did in the beginning.” By Brian Sherman DON’T IGNORE THOSE FLOATERS AND FLASHES Floaters are usually part of the aging process. At the age of 50, you have a 50% chance of having to deal with them.