This Is Why You Shouldn't Lie to Your Eye Doctor About Floaters

Those little specks you secretly see aren't always harmless. Tell your doctor just in case.

Be honest, it's safe to say that when you visit the eye doctor and the questionnaire asks if you see frequent "eye floaters," you always tick the box in the "No" column—regardless of the response's veracity. Don't worry, we're not here to floater shame. In fact, I'll even cop to the fact that I've been lying to my optometrist since the Bush administration—and I'm talking about H.W. here. As far as my eye doctor knows, I've spent the last few decades in a floater-free state of bliss. Of course, the reality is I've been seeing floaters for exactly just as long as I've been lying about not seeing them.

What makes this behavior even more strange, is that more often than not, eye floaters are a completely harmless sign of aging. As you get older, the center of your eye, or vitreous, shrinks, creating gel-like particles that move around in your field of vision, the Cleveland Clinic says, adding that they are extremely common and in most cases don't require treatment. So, why do we lie about seeing them?

That might be a question better suited for your therapist, but the truth is, if you see floaters, you should tell your doctor. Because, while they are likely harmless and nothing to worry about, there are certainly a few serious exceptions. Read on to discover why you need to stop lying to your eye doctor about floaters. And for more on your vision health, This Is How You're Destroying Your Eyes Without Knowing It.

You may have a torn retina.

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Yes, the vast majority of the time, floaters are harmless. However about 10 percent of the time they are the result of a retinal tear, Suber Huang, MD, chief executive of Retina Center of Ohio in Cleveland, told Today in 2016. The tear occurs when the vitreous gel separates from the retina with too much force. It's an issue that should be addressed immediately, Huang says. An even bigger emergency is when the tear is so severe that a full retinal detachment occurs, which can cause total loss of vision if not treated in time. And while we're being honest about floaters, here are 13 Health Myths About Your Eyes You Need to Stop Believing.

You may have blood in your eye.

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A shrinking vitreous may be the most common cause of floaters, but it is not the only culprit. While rare, sometimes floaters, especially if they are new or developed suddenly, may mean you are actually bleeding inside your eye, the Mayo Clinic says. As you'll soon discover, blood in your eyes isn't quite as innocuous as having age-induced floaters.

And that could be a sign of a serious medical condition.

doctor showing patient results but not making eye contact

What causes a person to experience bleeding in their eyes? "Bleeding into the vitreous can have many causes, including diabetes, hypertension, blocked blood vessels and injury," says the Mayo Clinic. And for more on that second condition listed, here's The Biggest Myth About Blood Pressure You Need to Stop Believing.

Your eye may be inflamed and require treatment.

asian doctor examining woman's eye with flashlight

For some people, floaters may be the result of a condition called uveitis, which the Cleveland Clinic says is characterized as inflammation, swelling, or irritation of the middle layer of the eye, or uvea. In cases of uveitis, it's important to consult your doctor, as the condition requires treatment, often with steroid drops and antibiotics. And for more helpful health information delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

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