Eye floaters are small spots that obstruct your field of sight. Here’s what you need to know about them:
- These spots may look like strings or black specks that stand out when you focus on something bright, like a blue sky or white paper.
- They drift around when you move the eyes.
- Eye floaters are mostly due to age-related transitions as the vitreous (jelly-like substance) in the eyes slowly becomes more watery.
- The microscopic fibers in the vitreous will clump and cast a few small shadows on the affected person’s retina.
- These shadows are called floaters.
Unchanging and longstanding eye floaters are generally harmless. However, if you notice many floaters that may distort your vision, ensure to seek help.
Symptoms of Eye Floaters
Many individuals view eye floaters as spots or specks in the eye, black spots in vision, strings, cobwebs, “C” or “O”-shaped blobs, or curved and straight lines. Some see several floaters, while others see just one. The lines may look thin, thick, or squiggly, and they often seem to be branched. Most people describe them as darker than the background color and different shades of gray.
The density of various eye floaters varies within a person’s eye. A floater can be more apparent while facing a bright sky and be more noticeable in certain lighting conditions. You’ll hardly see eye floaters in reduced light conditions.
Like fingerprints, the floater patterns are unique to each person. If an individual’s eyes have floaters, the pattern in each eye won’t be the same. In every eye that has floaters, the pattern may change over time.
Floaters can’t be seen with closed eyes or in darkness, and they always have a darker color than the background. This is unlike viewing light flashes, which individuals often notice with closed eyes or in the dark.
Causes of Eye Floaters
Floaters may be caused due to aging or other conditions or diseases:
Age-Related Eye Transition
As we age, the jelly-like substance (vitreous) that fills the eyeball and helps it maintain a round shape changes. After some time, the vitreous will partially liquefy, slowly leaving the interior surface of the eyeball. As the vitreous sags and shrinks, it becomes stringy. The debris obstructs part of the light that passes through the eye and casts small shadows on the retina, which we know as floaters.
Bleeding in the vitreous may result from several factors, including injury, hypertension, blocked blood vessels, and diabetes.
A retina can tear if the vitreous draws on it with too much force. If left untreated, retinal tears may result in retinal detachment, a situation where a fluid accumulates behind the retina and separates it from behind the eye. It can lead to permanent vision loss if left untreated.
Inflammation can occur in the uvea layers. The condition can cause inflammatory debris to be released into the vitreous, which may appear as floaters. It is called posterior uveitis and can occur due to inflammatory diseases or infections.
Treatment of Eye Floaters
The underlying cause of eye floaters determines the treatment. While some cases aren’t harmful, more severe cases may affect eye health. If floaters start to impair one’s vision, here are some treatments to remove them or make them less conspicuous:
1. Ignore Them or Move Your Eyes
Often, the best treatment is to do nothing. In most cases, floaters will disappear or fade on their own. If the floaters annoy you, you can move your eyes (looking up and down) to shift the fluid. Coping with floaters is a less invasive method of protecting the eyes.
Vitrectomy is a surgical process that involves the removal of eye floaters from the line of vision. An eye specialist will remove the vitreous via a small incision.
The doctor uses a solution to replace the vitreous to help maintain the eye’s round shape. The body will gradually produce more vitreous to replace the new solution.
3. Laser Therapy
In this treatment, a specialist will aim lasers at the floaters. It can lead to a break-up and minimize their presence. Incorrectly aimed lasers can damage the retina.
This method is still experimental and shouldn’t be a preferred treatment. Although it’s effective in some cases, a few people noticed very little improvement. Discuss with your doctor to ascertain the best options.
Have flashing lights or new floaters checked by an optometrist as early as possible. You can seek help from professionals like Belson Opticians to remove floaters and check your eyes’ condition.