Have you ever noticed specks or tiny spots that drift around your vision? These are known as floaters and for the most part, having floaters is common and nothing to worry about. As we age, floaters may become more frequent and noticing them on a more common basis can be a sign of a bigger problem.
What are Eye Floaters?
Floaters are small clumps of gel that form in the vitreous, the clear jelly-like fluid that fills the inside cavity of the eye. Although they appear to be in front of the eye, they are floating in the fluid inside the eye and the retina sees them as shadows.
Many patients call our offices with a complaint of new floaters in their vision. As we age, the vitreous degenerates and becomes waterier which is a natural process of aging so as the eyes get older, seeing more frequent floaters is likely.
What are the Symptoms of Floaters?
Eye floaters look like tiny specks, dots, or circles that appear in your field of vision. They can also take the form of lines or cobwebs that seem to be located directly in front of your eye. If you try to focus on the floaters, you may be surprised that they appear to drift or dart away.
Floaters tend to be the most noticeable when looking at something without a lot of detail. For example, an empty wall, a blank sheet of paper, or a blue sky can make floaters more apparent.
What Causes Eye Floaters?
The eye floaters you see in your field of vision are actually shadows cast on your retina. They are caused by clumps of gel or cells that can form in the jelly-like part of the middle eye.
Eye floaters usually develop with age. The middle of the eye tends to thicken and shrink as we grow older. It can also pull away from the back of the eye. This event is called posterior vitreous detachment. It is quite common for floaters to form as a result of posterior vitreous detachment.
Eye floaters that appear suddenly or increase rapidly are another story —particularly if they are accompanied by flashes or a loss of peripheral vision. These painless symptoms may indicate a sight-threatening emergency. Contact our eye specialists right away for guidance.
Who is at Risk of Experiencing Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters can happen to anyone. However, they are more common if you:
- Are over 50
- Are nearsighted
- Have a history of eye trauma
- Have diabetic retinopathy
- Developed complications from cataract surgery
- Have eye inflammation
Are Eye Floaters Dangerous?
In most cases, eye floaters are not dangerous. They are often a result of things like the normal aging process, inflammation, eye medications, and previous eye surgery. However, they can also be a symptom of an underlying disease or a serious visual complication like a torn retina.
Visiting a skilled ophthalmologist for an exam is the only way to learn if your eye floaters are dangerous. Contact our team to schedule an appointment to evaluate the specks in your vision.
What Should I do if I Have Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters are usually not serious. They tend to lighten and become less noticeable over time. In most cases, you do not need to do anything about eye floaters. However, it is important to discuss them with your eye doctor to make sure they are not symptoms of another condition.
Are There any Treatment Options if I Have Eye Floaters?
Time is usually a sufficient treatment for eye floaters. They are known to fade away without intervention. Severe eye floaters can be removed by surgery. However, it is rarely recommended. In the case of floaters caused by a disease, condition, or medication, treating the underlying problem should improve the appearance of these unwanted specks and dots.
How Does Laser Vitreolysis Treat Eye Floaters?
Now, patients who are looking to treat their floaters can have a procedure called laser vitreolysis. Laser vitreolysis breaks up your floaters using a laser. Once the floaters have been broken up, you may see small black spots.
These are small gas bubbles and are a normal part of the procedure that should go away shortly. Your eyes may feel irritated while you are recovering from the procedure. It is important to discuss any changes in your vision with your doctor at your regular eye appointments to avoid serious complications.