You have probably already noticed that small dark spots sometimes seem to follow the movement of your eyes. These curious black floats that question us are, in fact, an integral part of our ocular system. These shadows, which can manifest in many forms and move in our eye, obscuring part of our visual field, are called eye floaters. Observed in more than 70% of people, they appear as lines or black dots, sometimes gray.
What Are Eye Floaters?
These are dark spots in the form of dots, circles, lines or cobwebs that seem to move in the visual field. They are particularly noticeable when you look at a background with little colors such as a clear sky or a white wall. Eye floaters can appear in multiple shapes or numbers and they seem to move when looking in different directions.
Floating bodies are in principle, simple proteins from the gel-like substance in the eye called vitreous. This threadlike group of proteins blocks the arrival of the external light to the retina, causing a shadow in front of the latter. So, the dark shapes that you see and move in your field of view are actually the floating bodies themselves.
Eye floaters can be uncomfortable, but they usually do not interfere with your eyesight. However, here are some symptoms that help you identify if you are observing eye floaters or some other ocular problems:
- Black or gray dots
- Squiggly lines
- Threadlike strands, which can be bumpy and semi-transparent
- Profiled rings
Once you develop eye floaters usually they do not go away, but they tend to improve over time.
What Causes Eye Floaters?
The inside of the eye is filled with a transparent and gelatinous substance called the vitreous. The vitreous helps maintain the shape of the eye and allows light to penetrate through the retina – the thin, light-sensitive tunic that lines the back of the eye and works much like a film in a camera. Floating bodies are small gelatinous masses that form in the vitreous. Even if one has the impression that they are on the anterior part of the eye, they actually float in the vitreous and are perceived as shadows by the retina.
Other causes include:
- Age-related eye changes: With aging, vitreous shrinks and often separates from the retina. In fact, between the ages of 50-70 years, the vitreous is separated from the retina in about 50% of people and this causes the appearance of vitreous floaters. These can be very annoying at first, but the brain gradually learns not to pay attention and after a few months, you barely notice them. Visit your ophthalmologist to keep a check on age-related eye diseases.
- Inflammation in the back of the eye: Seeing floaters can sometimes result from internal inflammation or crystalline deposits that form in the vitreous.
- Torn retina: Most of the time, the vitreous separates from the retina without causing any problem. In some people, there are adhesions between the retina and the vitreous and tearing of the retina can occur when the vitreous detaches, causing in the eye a slight bleeding that may look like a group of new bodies floating.
- Other causes: Rare causes include tumors and the presence of intraocular foreign bodies. In some cases, the moving organs may be associated with diabetes, the results of ocular surgery or advanced cataract.
Eye Floaters Treatment
Benign eye floaters almost never need medical treatment. If they are unpleasant, you can move them away from your field of vision by moving your eyes. This maneuver moves the fluid in your eyes. Looking up and down is generally more effective than looking from side to side.
If eye floaters are so dense and numerous that they affect your vision, your ophthalmologist may consider a surgery called vitrectomy. During this procedure, a part or all of the vitreous body and its floating debris are removed and replaced with saline solution. Vitrectomy can have complications, such as retinal detachment, retinal tears or cataract. The risks of these complications are low, but if they occur, vision can be damaged permanently. Because of this, most surgeons will not recommend vitrectomy unless eye floaters are causing an extraordinary visual impairment.
Another option is laser vitreolysis wherein a laser beam is focused on large seeing floaters to break or vaporize them. However, you will need a good ophthalmologist to determine if you can benefit from this treatment. If you are in Fresno, you can find qualified and experienced ophthalmologists in Fresno for treatment of your eye floaters.