Harvard Health Letter

Specks in your vision can signal serious eye conditions

These "floaters" are not just bothersome. They can be signs of potential retinal disease.

Floaters, those tiny specks that drift across your field of vision, are usually harmless and often disappear or become less noticeable on their own. But sometimes they indicate a condition that can lead to vision loss. "A new onset of floaters may herald retinal disease," says Dr. Jeffrey Heier, director of the retina service at Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston and clinical instructor in ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Retinal detachment

Retinal detachment

Harriet Greenfield

If the vitreous detaches, it may pull on the retina and
cause a tear. This may cause blood to ooze into the
vitreous gel, and a person will see black spots or floaters.
Without treatment, progression from a tear to a retinal
detachment could cause permanent vision loss.

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »