What are the causes of eye floaters?

Do you often see some white spots floating right in front of your eyes? When you reach out to catch them, they don’t get trapped. Do they? What do you think these spots are? Are these dirt, microorganisms or gas particles in the air? They are actually none of the options that comes to your mind. The white spots are actually eye floaters that are not outside but are present inside your eyes. Eye floaters are little spots that keep drifting through your vision field.

It mostly happens when you suddenly look at something very bright and then contract your vision immediately. For example, when you look at a bright blue sky or white paper, you see floaters. However, they can be annoying at times but do not interfere with your normal vision. When it is a big floater, then it may form a shadow within your visual field. Although you mostly see big floaters when the light source is extremely bright, such as a car headlight.

Normally you can easily ignore eye floaters as they do not pose any major threat to your eyesight. However, there can be very rare times when floaters can prove to be bad enough and need treatment.

What causes eye floaters?

Most floaters are small protein flecks made up of collagen. It forms a gel-like layer in the vitreous layer at the back of your eye. With the natural process of aging, collagen forming the vitreous layer starts breaking up into small scraps that cluster together. These clusters pose shadows on your retina, which you see as floaters.

When the vitreous layer shrinks away from your retina, you visualize a flash. If the flashes keep getting recurrent and drastically change in forms, you should immediately consult an ophthalmologist. You will mostly experience the changes when you reach an age around 50 to 75 years. The jelly-like vitreous layer gets pulled away from your retina, as it clumps and becomes stringy. If you have recently undergone any eye surgery, then you are more likely to see floaters.

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Reasons why you see floaters:

  1. Eye injury
  2. Cysts or tumors in the eye
  3. Eye disease- detached retina, inflammation of vitreous layer or retina due to autoimmune disorders, bleeding in vitreous, and torn retina. Inflammation mostly happens in the uvea, present at the back of your eye. This condition is known as posterior uveitis. It may result in severe infection or other disorders of eyes.
  4. Diabetic retinopathy- a condition where high glucose level in the blood (diabetes) damages your retina, hampering your vision.
  5. Torn retina- when the retinal curtain of your eyes gets torn due to a sagging vitreous. The force of the damaged vitreous is so strong that it dangerous tears the retina, resulting in permanent blindness.
  6. Deposits of crystal-like substances in the vitreous layer

Sometimes you might experience a little migraine headache that may be associated with floaters. Imagine looking into a kaleidoscope. Floaters look exactly the same, just moving.  Floaters usually last for some minutes, which you can see with both your eyes.

What are the signs?

Floaters are like white flecks that keep moving in your visual field when you look into any bright or white object. They tend to zoom away, the moment you try focusing on their movement. Usually, you will see floaters in various shapes:

  • Cobwebs
  • Squiggly lines
  • Rings
  • Threads or long strands, appearing knobby and transparent

How to diagnose eye floaters?

There is usually no need for treating floaters, as they go away after a certain period of time. However, if you feel you are seeing more of them after an eye surgery like cataract, then seek doctor’s help. Sometimes the appearance of floaters may change with time, along with its recurrence. Do not ignore if the problem does not go away. Consult with an eye doctor and look for remedies.

When should you know is the right time to visit a doctor? There are some possible signs that you should look out for before finalizing your doctor’s appointment.

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Be alert when:

  1. The number of eye floaters abruptly increase in a short time.
  2. Gradually you start losing your side vision.
  3. You experience internal pain in both your eyes.
  4. The shape and appearance of eye floaters change very quickly, towards something worse.
  5. You start seeing more number of light flashes in your eyes, every time you blink.
  6. Too much of floaters start blocking your normal vision after recent eye surgery.

Do not hesitate to take suggestions from an ophthalmologist if you are experiencing retinal problems lately. Remember that if you ignore or fail to get immediate help at such circumstances, you can end up with the permanent loss of vision.

How can you treat floaters?

If the eye floaters are benign and harmless, you may not require any medical treatment. Once they start annoying you and getting into the way of your vision, you need to take other steps. Whenever you get eye floaters, try to get them out of your vision by moving your eyeballs. When you keep circling your eyeballs, it shifts your vitreous layer all around.

Do this simple eye exercise activity to get rid of floaters. First, look up, then down, then right and finally left. Keep doing this in a circle. Gradually increase the speed, and again bring it down. Fluctuate the speed like this for around a minute or two. Normally, the floaters should go away after sometime.

If you see a lot of big floaters coming in the way of your vision, your doctor may suggest you undergo vitrectomy. In this surgery, the doctor removes your vitreous layers causing all trouble with a salt solution. However, vitrectomy may sometimes result in some adverse conditions such as cataract, torn retina, and detached retina. Although the risk of getting these conditions is quite low, you cannot be completely assured of that. In very rare cases, vitrectomy may even result in permanent loss of eyesight

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