Eye floaters are a commonly occurring phenomenon characterised by dark spots along an individual’s line of sight that tend to diminish gradually upon glancing at them directly. They are usually harmless and happen as a result of ageing, like the hardening of the eye lens in presbyopia from old age, or frequently applying pressure, friction on the eyes. Floaters arise in the visual organs due to the jelly-like substance known as vitreous, which fill the sockets and provide the appropriate shape to the eyes, becoming more fluid in nature. They then aggregate in the form of fibrous clusters that exhibit a shadow in the retina.
While eye floaters usually do not pose any serious health risks, when too many appear at the same time or the specks prompt partial vision loss, then it is mandatory to seek professional medical care from an ophthalmologist immediately. It is, hence, essential to be aware of the causes, risk factors, symptoms of eye floaters, for an accurate diagnosis and to provide pertinent medical treatment.
Causes Of Eye Floaters
The most common reason why eye floaters occur is due to ageing. As a person grows older, the vitreous gel loses its texture, becoming thinner in consistency and liquifying. This, in turn, makes it contract and wilt away, leaving behind opaque masses of fibrous tissue that form shadows on the retina when light enters the eye, appearing as floaters. However, inflammatory conditions of the eye such as posterior uveitis that is triggered by infection also result in floaters.
Bleeding happening within the eyes, like in the case of vitreous haemorrhage in chronic type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, besides structural defects like tears in the retina and subsequent retinal detachment also give rise to eye floaters.
Certain attributes predispose an individual to develop eye floaters. These consist of:
- Older people above the age of 50 years
- Trauma and injury to the eyes
- Cataract surgeries and associated complications
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Inflammation in the eyes
The typical indications observed in eye floaters comprise:
- Tiny black spots along the line of vision
- Filaments of vitreous tissue substances floating in the eyes
- Prominent dots while looking at plain vivid-hued backdrops
- Odd figures like threads and cobwebs appearing in the line of sight and eventually fading away
Yet, some signs of eye floaters, although painless, are rather serious and require immediate medical attention since they could be induced from retinal tears, such as:
- Abrupt onset of several floaters and viewing large numbers of dark spots
- Seeing bright flashes of light stemming from the eyes
- Permanently dark surroundings on one or both sides of the eyes, owing to peripheral vision loss
The doctor investigates all parts of the eyes during a complete eye exam, probing the rear portions as well as the vitreous. This helps gauge the extent of damage from eye floaters and what the precise causative factors of the dark spots are.
In situations wherein diabetes complications or inflammatory illnesses prompt eye floaters, then the underlying conditions are treated with appropriate prescription medicines. This aids in rectifying vision and diminishing the floating strings and cobwebs along the line of sight and thus no specific treatment is needed for remedying the eye floaters.
Nevertheless, when numerous eye floaters appear in a person and this instance happens very often in a day, it obstructs proper vision and sometimes leads to peripheral vision loss as well. In these cases, the ophthalmologist performs a surgery known as vitrectomy, to remove the vitreous and hence eliminate all signs of floaters. Another corrective procedure is by using lasers to target and break down the floaters, so as to ensure optimal vision and normal, healthy eyesight to the patient.