Floaters are part of the vitreous gel in the eye that cast shadows on the retina, the layer of cells lining the back of the eye that senses light and allows you to see. Floaters can appear as different shapes, such as dots, circles, lines, clouds or cobwebs. The eye is filled with a clear jelly called the vitreous gel. The Vitreous gel inflates the back part of the eye in the way water inflates a water balloon. As we age, the vitreous gel begins to dissolve into a more watery form. Once enough of the vitreous gel has dissolved usually when we are in our late 50’s or early 60’s the gel pulls free of its attachments to the back of the eye. This sudden event, called a posterior vitreous detachment, often causes a number of symptoms. One common symptom of a posterior vitreous detachment is the appearance of floaters.
Floaters are exactly what they sound like, tiny bits of debris that appear when the vitreous gel separated from the back of the eye. These bits of cloudy debris float in the liquefied vitreous like snow in a snow globe. If you have a single small floater, you may have the sensation that a bug is flying in your face. Often in eyes with posterior vitreous detachments, the floaters are bigger and somewhat stringy, and you may describe it as a spider web or cobweb in your vision. Typically, these floaters will move around n your vision especially when you move your eyes around. Floaters usually do not stay in exactly the same spot in your vision. Another common symptom of a posterior vitreous detachment is seeing flashing lights in the very periphery of your vision. As the vitreous gel pulls loose from the back of the eye, it tugs on the wallpaper lining in the back of the eye. This wallpaper is called the retina. When the retina is tugged on it generates the sensation of flashing lights in the periphery of your vision. Floaters can also be a sign of bleeding in the eye, for example in diabetics or patients with trauma. Floaters can also be seen in patients who have Uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammatory disease of the eye that comes with many other symptoms other than floaters such as photophobia, eye pain, vision loss ettc.
Here at North Shore Eye Care its important to be able to recognize certain eye issues or symptoms. If you have the sudden onset of floaters in your vision and/or flashing lights in the periphery of your vision, it is recommended that you call your eye doctor immediately to arrange an examination. We have eight locations across long island. We are available daily to answer any questions you may have regarding floaters, flashes or any general questions regarding your eyes.