What Are Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters are spots, “cobwebs,” dots, circles or lines that appear to move around or drift in your vision as the eyes move. Most commonly it occurs as part of aging. With normal aging, the vitreous ― a jelly-like substance that gives shape to the eyes ― shrinks and no longer pushes up against the retina. Where the vitreous is attached to the retina, especially at the optic nerve, a piece of tissue might be torn free and float in the new fluid space between the retina and vitreous. Floaters are the shadows of this tissue on the retina. This is called a posterior vitreous detachment. Other causes of floaters are bleeding or inflammation inside the eye
Those most at risk for floaters include those who are:
- Have had eye surgery
- Those with inflammation or bleeding in the eye
Age-related floaters are usually not a cause for a concern. Often, they “settle” at the bottom of the eye, less out of the direct line of vision. Most people learn to ignore them. The symptoms of floaters are:
Small shapes, spots or strings — These vision disruptions show up in the field of vision and move when the eyes move or move out of a person’s field of vision when he or she tries to look directly at them. They are most noticeable when looking at a plain, bright background, such as a blue sky, a white wall or a white piece of paper.
Assuming the floater isn’t from bleeding or inflammation in the eye, generally treatment isn’t necessary for floaters that are just an annoyance. In rare cases, exceptionally large or numerous floaters can interfere with vision. In these situations, treatments are sometimes necessary:
- Laser procedures — A laser is used to break up the floaters in the vitreous, which may improve vision.
- Surgery — Severe cases can be treated with vitrectomy, a surgical procedure that removes the vitreous gel and floater and replaces it with salt water. The surgery poses risks due to potential complications, so it is reserved for the most extreme cases.
A sudden increase in floaters, especially if accompanied by light flashes or loss of side (peripheral) vision, may be a sign of retinal detachment, a serious condition that requires emergency treatment.
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