Eye Floaters: Know Your Symptoms and Causes

  • Eye floaters are spots in your vision that float when you move your eyes.
  • They usually occur as you get older “as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid.”
  • But if floaters appear to multiply that you lose your peripheral vision, you need to take care of those right away.

When the vitreous gel inside your eyes becomes more liquid, an age-related occurrence, eye floaters appear. Microscopic fibers clump within the vitreous and cast tiny shadows on your retina when light enters the eye. The shadows are called eye floaters.

Health experts warn that if eye floaters suddenly increase in numbers, or if you lose your peripheral vision, or see light flashes, then you should contact an eye specialist instantly.

What are the Symptoms?

  • Tiny shapes or strings in your vision that appear as floating dark specks
  • Spots that appear to move when you move your eyes, but seem to scuttle so when you try to look at them
  • Spots that are easily noticeable when you look at a plain bright background, like the blue sky or a white wall
  • Small shapes or strings that eventually settle down and drift out of the line of vision

Causes of Eye Floaters

  • Age-related eye changes. As you age, the jelly-like substance (aka the vitreous) covering your eyeballs changes. It partially liquefies and tends to pull away from the eyeball’s interior surface. As the vitreous shrinks and sags, it becomes clumpy and stringy. The clump blocks some of the light passing through the eye, casting tiny shadows on your retina that are seen as floaters.
  • Inflammation in the back of the eye. A condition called posterior uveitis causes inflammation in the layers of the uvea in the back of the eye. Some inflammatory debris is seen as floaters. This condition may be caused by infection or inflammatory diseases.
  • Bleeding in the eye. Diabetes, hypertension, blocked blood vessels and an injury can cause bleeding into the vitreous. Blood cells are seen as floaters.
  • Torn retina. Retinal tears happen when “a sagging vitreous tugs on the retina with enough force to tear it.” This could lead to retinal detachment—an accumulation of fluid behind the retina that causes it to separate from the back of your eye. This is serious as untreated retinal detachment may lead to blindness.
  • Eye surgeries and eye medications. Some medications that are injected directly into the vitreous form air bubbles, which appear as floaters. Some vitreoretinal surgeries add silicone oil bubbles into the vitreous that also produce floaters.

Risk factors

  • Age over 50
  • Nearsightedness
  • Eye inflammation
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Eye trauma
  • Complications from cataract surgery

Source: Mayo Clinic

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