Eye Floaters: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Do you randomly see squiggly little lines, spots, or thread-like strands floating while looking at the sky or any blank space? Despite blinking or rubbing your eyes, these floaters might persistently stay in your eyesight. What are floaters? Are eye floaters something outside the eyes or something within the eyes? Is it normal to spot eye floaters? Get all your answers related to eye floaters in this blog.
What are eye floaters?
Eye floaters are a natural phenomenon and a part of the natural ageing process. These are solidified parts of a gel-like substance called vitreous humor in your eyes. Due to ageing, the vitreous starts shrinking within your eye and creating small solidified particles that drift through the vitreous gel. When these solidified masses float across the macula (centre of the retina), it becomes visible to you as floaters.
Eye floaters are common and in most cases, you do not need any eye floaters treatment. Initially, it can be annoying to keep spotting it in your area of vision and these floaters move along even if you try to keep focus on different objects. Though distracting, you can ignore the eye floaters or wait for them to settle at the bottom of the eye or beneath the field of vision.
While eye floaters are not a serious condition, a sudden increase in the number and frequency of floaters can be an indicator of retinal detachment. The shrinking and pulling away of the vitreous causes the retina to detach and cause serious vision problems.
Types of Eye Floaters
Eye floaters can appear in different shapes for different people. How you describe eye floaters may be starkly different from how others might. It actually depends on your creative quotient and perspective on how you would classify the eye floaters you see. Here are some of the common types of eye floaters:
- Shadowy dots
- Dust-like specks
- Small squiggly lines
- Transparent/black or grey uneven small lines
- Cobweb shapes
- Ring-like structures (Weiss Ring floater)
- Cloud-like floaters
- Fibrous thread-like strands
- Black or dark spots
What Causes Eye Floaters?
While the main cause for eye floaters is the age-related clumping in the vitreous, there are several other reasons for eye floaters. What causes eye floaters?
- Age-related changes in the eye: The gel-like substance in the eye that fills and helps maintain the round structure of the eyeballs may change with natural ageing. With the shrinking of the vitreous, the gel starts clumping and turning into a stringy substance. These clumps, when passing across the macula, cast a shadow on the retina and block light, causing you to see eye floaters.
- Inflammation in the eye: Inflammation in the back of the eye (posterior uveitis) causes the inflammatory debris into the vitreous gel. These particles then appear as eye floaters in your field of vision.
- Bleeding in the eye: This is a serious condition wherein there might be bleeding in the eye, either due to any chronic diseases like diabetes or blocked blood vessels, or trauma to the eye. The release of blood into the vitreous gel leads to blood cells blocking the retinal path of light and it is what causes eye floaters.
- Retinal damage: The retinal tissue may tear or rupture when the sagging vitreous tugs on the retina with force. Without timely diagnosis and treatment, retinal tears can lead to retinal detachment. The fluid gets behind the retina and causes it to separate from the back of the eye. A sudden increase in eye floaters and flashes is one of the major symptoms of retinal detachment. This is a serious condition and if it goes untreated, it might also cause permanent vision loss. People over the age of 60 are more prone to retinal detachment.
- Eye surgeries or medications: Eye surgeries and some medications that are injected into the vitreous humor can cause bubbles in the gel. These bubbles may also cast a shadow by blocking retinal light and lead to eye floaters.
When Should You Worry about Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters, as mentioned before, are not a serious condition at all, but in certain cases, these floaters might be an indication of severe damage in the eyes. When should I worry about eye floaters? You should immediately call your doctor if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent eye floaters
- A sudden increase in the number of eye floaters
- You see flashes of light along with floaters
- Dark and shadowy peripheral or side vision
- Eye floaters start blocking your vision
- Eye floaters take up much of your field of vision
- Pain along with floaters in the eye
Treatment & Cure for Eye Floaters
Believe it or not, the best eye floaters cure is to ignore them! Eye floaters do not require any treatment and often disappear on their own by settling at the bottom of the eye, below your field of vision. Eye floaters are irritating and distracting and it is not under your control to push away the sight of these stringy vitreous masses. However, you need not worry since these eye floaters do not possess any threat to eyesight.
For severe cases of eye floaters, here are some common eye floater treatments that your optometrist might suggest:
1) Vitreous surgery: In certain very rare cases, one might need surgery to remove floaters that might disrupt vision. This surgery is called Vitrectomy. In this procedure, the doctor surgically removes the vitreous gel that causes floaters and replaces it with a saline solution or a bubble filled with gas or oil. The surgery is effective and patients do not even notice a difference between the vitreous gel and saline solution. Vitrectomy is prescribed only for conditions like cataracts and retinal detachment.
2) Laser vitreolysis: This is a laser eye floater treatment that breaks apart and destroys clumpy vitreous gel that causes the floaters and makes them less noticeable.
Naturally Reducing Eye Floaters
Here are a few tips on how to reduce floaters in the eyes naturally:
- Eat a healthy diet with anti-inflammatory foods
- Apply a gently hot and cold compress to the eyes to relax and prevent strain
- Massage your temples with your eyes closed
- Wear protective blue-light glasses while working in front of screens (Reducing screen time will help too!)
- Drink plenty of water to reduce toxic buildup in the eye that may lead to eye floaters
- Take eye vitamin supplements for optimal eye health
- Eye focus exercises can help reduce fatigue and the formation of eye floaters
Annoyed with too many eye floaters? You might need an optometrist to have a look at it! Book an appointment at The Eye Lab for premium eye tests and expert tips about optimal eye health.