Don’t delay an eye exam if visual floaters suddenly occur!

A sudden onset of vitreous floaters should never be ignored.  When they suddenly occur they mean something new has happened in your eye requiring a prompt, thorough examination. The most common cause of floaters is separation of the vitreous body from the inner walls of the eye.  As people age the vitreous gel, which comprises the bulk of the inside of the eye, liquefies and shrinks.  At the same time it’s attachment to these inner walls weakens.  When the vitreous eventually detaches it condenses.  These condensations cause the floaters that people are aware of .

The retina lines the inner wall of the eye and is vital for vision.  Sometimes when the vitreous separates it may still be adherent to areas of the retina.  This abnormal attachment can result in a tear of the retina with resultant visual loss should a retinal detachment occur.  If caught early enough these tears can usually be sealed with a laser treatment.  By sealing the tear a retinal detachment can be prevented and vision loss can be spared.  Some tears can be so far anterior (toward the forward edge of the retina) or so large that laser treatment is not feasible.  In these cases a cryoprobe is used that causes the necessary scarring about the tear to prevent a retinal detachment.

Vitreous floaters can also be caused by bleeding within the eye.  While retinal tears are a common cause for bleeding, diabetes is another common cause for vitreous hemorrhages due to abnormal vessel formation that sometimes occurs with this disease. A third common cause for vitreous floaters is inflammation referred to as uveitis.  This often requires a medical work-up to determine the cause and proper treatment of this condition.

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