Understand Eye Floaters: Causes & Treatment
Seeing squiggly lines or dark spots that float across your vision and wondering why they occur? It’s very normal and harmless and rarely a sign of severe eye problems. Let’s discuss eye floaters causes, its treatment and some frequently asked questions.
Eye floaters are tiny spots that float through your field of vision when you are staring at a plain bright surface such as white paper, sky, or wall. They can look like a squiggly line, threads, cobwebs, black or dark spots. One person describing the floaters may sound different from another person. They look like things in front of your eyes, but eye floaters are actually inside your eye.
Eye Floaters Causes:
Ageing is the most common eye floaters causes where the other factors are less common. Let’s see the factors that cause eye floaters.
In the middle of your eye, a colourless gel-like substance called vitreous humor is present. It helps to maintain the round shape of the eye. As we age, the vitreous humor begins to shrink or thicken. When this happens, small particles form in the vitreous.
These strands of particles move through the vitreous and can pass in front of the retina. The retina is the layer of tissue present inside the back wall of the eye which senses light and sends signals to the brain so you can see. When the particles formed from the vitreous move in front of the retina, you see them (floaters). They tend to fade once they settle down in the bottom of the eye. It typically happens in people older than 50.
2. Bleeding in the eye:
Blood in the eye is often linked to diabetes. High blood sugar can damage the blood vessels of the retina. As a result, abnormal blood vessels grow in the retina and may bleed into the vitreous. Any cellular substance within the vitreous may lead to eye floaters.
Bleeding into the vitreous causes red blood cells to float inside the eye, and they appear as floaters. Other eye floaters causes, which are linked with bleeding in the eye are High blood pressure, injury, and eye surgery.
3. Inflammation in the eye (uveitis):
Uveitis is inflammation inside your eye, which usually happens when the immune system fights the infection. When uveitis is present, white blood cells and protein float in the vitreous and look like tiny rods or chains of bubbles floating around in your field of vision. Uveitis may also be caused by autoimmune disorders or diseases weakening the immune system.
4. Retinal tear:
When the vitreous gel shrinks, the gel separates from the retina. Mostly, this occurs without any issue. In people with stickier vitreous, it pulls away abnormally and causes the retina to tear. A person with retinal tears may experience black spots in the affected eye. Untreated retinal tears can cause retinal detachment and severe vision problems.
People with nearsightedness are at increased risk of developing floaters. The sudden occurrence of many floaters may be a warning sign of retinal detachment in nearsightedness.
6. Cataract surgery:
People who had cataract surgery are at high risk of developing floaters. In cataracts, the eye lens becomes cloudy and makes it harder to see. A clouded lens will be replaced with a new artificial lens in cataract surgery.
It can lead to the separation of the vitreous from the retina and can cause floaters. It is also possible that people with cataracts could not be able to see the existing floaters due to blurry vision. Once cataract surgery is done, their vision becomes clear, and they tend to notice the floaters.
Eye Floaters Treatment:
Eye floaters are usually not troublesome. Not treating them is the safest option. They rarely rise into a serious issue, but if the condition causing the floaters worsens, floaters can impair vision.
In many cases, the eye floaters settle down in the bottom of the eye, beneath the field of vision. Roll the eyes from up to down and side to side when you see floaters. When the fluid in the eye shifts, the floaters may move out of the way. If floaters cause trouble with seeing clearly and cause problems with daily life, other treatment options are considered.
When many floaters appear, a vitrectomy may be used to remove them. In this procedure, the physician will make very small openings in the eye and remove the gel-like substances from the eye using a suction tool. A solution mimicking the vitreous will be replaced inside. Later the body will replace this solution with its natural fluid.
This procedure involves high risks, including retinal tears or detachment and cataracts. And, also this procedure doesn’t prevent the new floaters. The doctor will discuss the risks and benefits associated with this surgery as it may damage the sight.
2. Vitreolysis (Laser treatment):
In laser treatment, the eye specialist uses the laser to break up the floaters to make them less noticeable. It is not widely used and also can cause serious side effects such as retinal damage.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do eye floaters go away?
For some people, eye floaters can disappear within a few weeks, while for others, it may take months to disappear depending upon the type and severity of floaters. Once the floaters settle in the bottom of the eye, it becomes less noticeable, and people may think they have gone away. They actually stay inside the bottom of the eye and don’t cause any problems to most people.
2. Do eye floaters occur in one eye only?
Most of the time, eye floaters are experienced in one eye at a time. It can occur in both the eyes also but not necessarily at the same time.
3. Are eye floaters permanent?
Yes, they permanently stay in the eye but once they settle down in the bottom of the eye, people think that floaters have gone away.
4. How to get rid of them?
Ignoring them is the best option since, in many cases, they will disappear on their own. In the beginning, it can be irritating, but slowly our brain can adapt to them and try to ignore their presence.
If floaters begin to affect the vision, eye floater surgery or laser treatment can be done to remove them. It is very vital to discuss the pros and cons of the treatment for eye floaters before deciding on one of them.
5. Do eye floaters come and go?
Yes, most of the time, people have floaters that come and go, and they don’t cause any problems.
6. When are floaters serious?
If you occasionally see them, you don’t need to worry about them. However, if you see a lot of new floaters than normal which appear suddenly, or a dark shadow or blurry area in your side or central vision, you need to visit an eye specialist. They could be a warning sign of more serious problems, retinal tear or detachment.
7. What are eye flashes? Do eye floaters occur together with eye flashes?
Eye flashes are points of light or lightning streaks in your field of vision. For eye flashes also, the most common reason behind occurrence is the shrinking of the vitreous humour. People can experience eye floaters and flashes together or separately. It's common for us to see occasional eye flashes as we age.
8. What’s the connection between migraines and eye floaters and flashes?
Migraine is a kind of headache that causes throbbing headache on one side of the head with other symptoms. People with migraines can experience visual disturbances. They may see shimmering zig-zag lines that mostly disappear in 15 to 20 minutes.
Migraine associated visual symptoms are generally seen in both eyes. Headache occurs after these flashes. Floaters or flashes, or other visual disturbances that don’t go away within one hour may be a symptom of retinal detachment or vitreous detachment.
9. How will my doctor diagnose eye floaters?
Your physician will usually dilate your eyes using some eye drops so that he can look if you have eye floaters or any other eye problems. The dilated eye exam is simple and painless. Your doctor may recommend getting a dilated exam once a year if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.
Try to write down the symptoms you experience and details like how long it occurred if you experience floaters. It can be helpful when visiting a doctor.
10. Can I prevent eye floaters?
You cannot prevent floaters, but you can ensure that floaters don’t lead to severe eye problems. Visit a physician when you notice floaters. The physician will identify the cause of floaters and the condition causing it. If the condition seems to be serious then he will treat the condition accordingly.
The Final Note
It is vital to take care of your eyes, particularly as we age. If you notice something unusual happening with your vision, it's better to visit a health care professional and have your eyes checked.