Eye Floaters- Cause for Concern or Common Condition?
Have you ever accidentally looked in bright sunlight then away and seen spots? Or looked into the flash when a photo is being taken? Chances are in these cases you experienced floating spots afterwards or floaters. What about floating spots or floaters that appear in your field of vision for no apparent reason, dancing in front of your eyes as you blink? Are these a cause for concern? Read on to learn more…
What are eye floaters?
According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, eye floaters (often called floating spots) are small, semi-transparent cobwebs, specks or squiggles that appear in your field of vision. They are actually small particles within the gel inside the eye that become noticeable when they fall within the line of sight. They move when you move your eyes, but tend to drift or lag behind your eye movements. They may also appear along with flashes of light.
What do floaters look like?
Floaters are generally translucent specks of various shapes and sizes. They may also look like bugs, threadlike strands or cobwebs within the eye. Since they are within the eye, they move as the eye moves and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly.
What causes eye floaters?
Aging: According to the Mayo Clinic, most eye floaters are caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid. Microscopic fibers within the vitreous tend to clump and can cast tiny shadows on your retina. The shadows you see are called floaters.
Eye formation before birth: Though it is associated with aging, many people are actually born with the condition when small flecks of protein and other matter become trapped in the vitreous during the formation of the eye before birth.
Injury: Eye trauma can cause floaters. It’s important if you sustain an eye injury to have an eye exam and describe any visual changes you are experiencing.
Eye disease: Certain eye diseases can cause floaters which is why it’s important to have routine eye exams.
Retinal tear or detachment: This is a serious issue and needs to be addressed immediately as it can cause blindness. It will usually be accompanied by flashes of light and other vision changes.
Should I be worried about floaters in my vision?
Only if they are sudden and happen after trauma or are accompanied by flashing lights, an indication that you may have a retinal tear. Get checked immediately if you experience these symptoms.
How do I get rid of floaters in my vision?
Having floaters can be distracting and annoying, especially when reading, but most do not require treatment. Adjusting to them may take time but once you know the floaters will not cause any more problems, you may eventually be able to ignore them. If there is an underlying cause of the floaters such as bleeding from diabetes or inflammation they will often go away after it is addressed. However, typically most eye floaters don’t require treatment.
If your eye floaters impair your vision, which happens rarely, you and your Toronto eye doctor may consider treatment, however there are high risks involved. Eye floaters treatments according to the Mayo Clinic include:
- Surgery to remove the vitreous. An ophthalmologist removes the vitreous through a small incision (vitrectomy) and replaces it with a solution to help your eye maintain its shape. Surgery may not remove all the floaters, and new floaters can develop after surgery. Risks of a vitrectomy include bleeding and retinal tears.
- Using a laser to disrupt the floaters. An ophthalmologist aims a special laser at the floaters in the vitreous, which may break them up and make them less noticeable. Some people who have this treatment report improved vision; others notice little or no difference. Risks of laser therapy include damage to your retina if the laser is aimed incorrectly. Laser surgery to treat floaters is used infrequently.
There you have it. While floaters may be annoying, they are for the most part a natural part of the aging process and nothing to worry about. Questions or concerns? Call our office, and set up an appointment. We’re here to help.