Ever notice strange shapes moving around in your eye? Are these shapes more prominent when you’re looking at a bright blue sky or a white sheet of paper? These could be eye floaters - small pieces of collagen that are part of a gel in the back of your eye called the vitreous. So what makes these pieces of collagen move from the back to the front of the eye, and what can be done to remove or prevent this from happening? Here are answers to some common questions regarding causes, symptoms, and treatments for eye vitreous floaters.
What Causes Floaters?
It’s no secret that the older we get, the more problems we experience with our eyes. One of these problems could be the breaking down and clumping of the protein fibers that make up the vitreous, which contributes to shadows being cast on the eye. When the vitreous becomes less jelly-like and becomes more of a liquid, the fibers clump and cause the shadows to appear.
Floaters can occur in adults at any age, although they’re more common between the ages of 50 and 75. You’re more likely to get them if you’re nearsighted or have experienced cataract surgery. Floaters can also result from various eye diseases and injuries, tumors, or diabetic retinopathy.
What Are The Symptoms?
Floaters can appear differently in every person who experiences them, but there are a few common symptoms that most patients experience. These symptoms include transparent spots or strings on the eyes, spots that move quickly when looking in different directions, spots that are noticeable when looking at bright lights or plain colors (like a bright, blue sky), or spots that drift out of the line of vision. If you are experiencing these symptoms you should see a specialist as soon as possible to confirm that nothing major is developing in your eye, especially if more severe symptoms develop as well (i.e.new floaters appearing, an abundance of floaters, sudden flashes of light, or peripheral vision loss).
How Can Floaters Be Treated?
While floaters can be annoying, most of the time they are harmless, and will go away over time on their own. However, if floaters are continuously getting worse, you will want to see your doctor about possible treatments. There are no treatments for floaters without risks, however. In the past, a vitrectomy, or a removal of the vitreous, was the best recommendation. However, this procedure has a risk of retinal tearing, retinal detachment and cataract formation. Laser vitreolysis is another treatment and it’s performed in a doctor’s office. A laser is projected into the eye through the pupil to target and break up the large floaters. This procedure also carries the risk of retinal tear and detachment. There is also a medication that can be injected into the eye, but this carries a risk of infection, retinal swelling, and retinal tear or detachment. These are all risks that you and your doctor can discuss if the need for treatment ever arises. Fortunately, the majority of floaters resolve naturally, with little to no hassle!
Experiencing any symptoms of floaters? Concerned about your eye health? We can help! Everett and Hurite’s staff can assist you with questions about floaters, symptoms, treatments, and any other eye concerns you may have. Schedule an appointment by contacting us today!