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Eye Floaters: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

Oct 23, 2023

Eye Floaters: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

"Eye floaters" are spots in the visual field. You might see them as tiny black or gray specks, cobwebs, or strings. Your eyes may flutter about as you move them. A floater tends to move away when you try to stare them in the eye directly.

Most cases of eye floaters are caused by changes in the vitreous, the jelly-like substance that liquefies and shrinks inside your eyes, as you age. Your retina may have minute shadows due to collagen fiber clusters scattered throughout the vitreous. The shadows you see are what we term floaters.

If you notice an abrupt increase in eye floaters, especially if you also have light flashes or vision loss, get in contact with an eye specialist straight away.

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Causes Of Eye Floaters

Eye floaters may be caused by diseases or from age-related changes in the vitreous substance.

  • Age-related alterations in the eyes: Mainly made up of water, hyaluronan (a kind of carbohydrate), and collagen (a protein), the vitreous is a jelly-like substance. By filling in the space between the lens and retina, the vitreous aids in maintaining the spherical form of your eye.As one gets older, the vitreous changes. Gradually, it melts and constricts, separating from the inside of the eyeball membrane.
  • During the vitreous transformations, collagen fibers within it form threads and clusters: A fraction of the light entering the eye is blocked by these scattered bits. On your retina, this results in tiny shadows that float.
  • Inflammation behind the retina of the eye: Uveitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the uvea, the core layer of tissue in the eye wall. Posterior uveitis affects both the retina and the choroid, a layer of tissue within the eye. Floaters are a result of vitreous inflammation. Posterior uveitis is caused by a variety of factors, including infections, inflammatory diseases, and autoimmune disorders.
  • Bleeding eyes: Many disorders, including diabetes, trauma, hypertension, retinal tears and detachments, and blood artery blockages, can cause bleeding into the vitreous. Blood cells seem to be floating.
  • Torn retina: Retinal tears may occur as a result of a contracting vitreous pulling on the retina hard enough to tear it. If a retinal tear is not treated, it may lead to retinal detachment. If fluid leaks behind the tear, it may cause the retina and the back of your eye to detach. Retinal detachment may cause irreversible vision loss if treatment is not received.
  • Both eye surgeries and eye medications: When certain medications are administered into the vitreous, air bubbles may form. Until your eyes adjust and begin to take them in, you see these bubbles as shadows. Silicone oil bubbles introduced during certain vitreous and retinal procedures might also result in floaters.

Also Read: Stye: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis and Treatment

Symptoms Of Eye Floaters

Some signs of eye floaters are as follows:

  • When you try to look at little shapes in your field of view, they quickly move out of your vision and resemble opaque strings of material or black spots moving. When you alter your gaze, these spots move.
  • Places that, against a strong, bright background, like a blue sky or a white wall, show out the most
  • Small shapes, like strings, that progressively develop motionlessly and vanish from vision

Also Read: Amblyopia: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Risk Factors of Eye Floaters

The following factors could increase your risk of developing ocular floaters:

  • Damage to the eyes
  • Nearsightedness
  • People over 50 years of age
  • Complications after cataract surgery
  • Diabetes can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which affects the retina's blood vessels.
  • Inflammation of eyes

Also Read: Myopia: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Complications

Diagnosis Of Eye Floaters

Your eye care specialist does a comprehensive examination of your eyes to determine the cause of your eye floaters. Usually, dilation of the eyes is required for your examination. Using eye drops dilates, or widens, the dark core of your eye. This increases your specialist's view of the vitreous and the back of your eyes.

Treatment Of Eye Floaters

Treatment for ocular floaters is usually not necessary. Treating any underlying medical issue, such as diabetes-related bleeding or inflammation, is necessary if it is causing eye floaters.

Eye floaters can be irritating, and they can take some getting used to. Eventually, you might be able to get used to the floaters or learn to ignore them when you're sure they won't bother you anymore.

In the unlikely event that your eye floaters impair your vision, you and your eye doctor may discuss potential treatments. Although these procedures are not common, options include laser floater destruction or vitreous extraction surgery.

  • Surgery for vitreous extraction: A small incision is made to remove the vitreous (vitrectomy) by an ophthalmologist experienced in vitreous and retinal surgery. To assist your eye in keeping its form, a solution is used in place of the vitreous. It's possible that some floaters will remain after surgery and that none will develop at all. Retinal tears, hemorrhage, and infection are among the risks associated with vitrectomy.
  • Destroying the floaters with a laser: Vitreolysis is a procedure where an ophthalmologist uses a specialized laser to target the vitreous floaters. The floaters may disperse as a result, becoming less noticeable. After this treatment, some people report having better vision, while others see little to no improvement. If the laser is not used properly, there's a danger it could cause harm during laser therapy.

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