Frequently one sees spots, black or white, cobwebs, or various other small objects that float around in the field of vision. These are quite common and are known as "floaters". Most floaters are harmless but floaters can also be a sign of serious illness or disease. Everyone has a gel in the mid to back part of the eye between the crystalline lens and the retina, known as the vitreous. This vitreous gel goes through changes as one ages and the gel turns to liquid. During these periods of changes it is quite possible that small amounts of protein or small deposits get caught in the vitreous gel itself. These can be fixed at one position or totally free floating in the back of the eye. As they float in your line of vision you will notice them.
They are most noticeable when you are looking in bright sunlight, reading on very contrasting white paper, or if you are in an area where there is snow. People who are on water with sunlight frequently see them. They rarely disappear but as they become more accustomed to them they are not bothersome. Often they are described by people who think there is hair in their eyes or they are seeing little flies floating around. Occasionally these are associated with "light flashes" that are seen on extreme movement of gaze or when the eyes are closed or other precipitating factors. These flashes of light have to do with the vitreous gel putting some pressure on the retina. Frequently the vitreous gel "detaches". When this happens you may see a lot of floaters and flashes of light.
The majority of these problems are not serious in nature but they can also be early warning signs of retinal holes, detachment, bleeds, or tumors. Sometimes you are actually seeing the red blood cells that are floating in the back of the eye. This is especially significant for diabetics. When this happens it is important to be fully evaluated and have a detailed ophthalmological examination, including a dilated examination to evaluate the source of the floaters. As with all medical problems not all symptoms have the same cause. This is the reason for the need of an examination to delineate the cause of the problem.