In between the lens and retina in our eye, a transparent gel body known as vitreous humor exists. It helps your eye maintain a round shape.
At the time of birth, the vitreous is homogenous, but as we grow older it degenerates. Tiny deposits of various sizes, shapes and refractive indices begin to appear in the vitreous. These cause shadows on the retina and appear as irregular floating shapes like cobwebs, spots, threads floating in front of our eyes.
This condition is called myodesopsia or the perception of floaters: a phenomena where visual effects are caused by sources within the eye.
Against bright backgrounds, like a sunny sky, floaters will become even more observable. The refraction of light by the floaters before it falls on your retina makes it more perceptible in bright light.
Floaters will also tend to move along with the movement of your eye. Most floaters tend to settle at the bottom of your eyeballs, irrespective of the orientation of the eyeball.
- Any eye damage that results in cell clumps or proteins that enter the vitreous humor can cause floaters.
- Benign floaters occur in people of all ages. However, floaters can have non-benign origins as well. They could also be caused by shrinkage of the vitreous with age.
- Floaters could also develop during the third trimester of pregnancy. The hyaloid artery (which supplies nutrients to the developing lens in the growing fetus) which runs through the vitreous can regress during this period to cause floaters.
- If you have a retinal tear, RBCs from leaky blood vessels can cluster together to form floaters.
- An inflamed uvea could cause white blood cells to cluster in the vitreous to cause floaters.
- Tumors of the eye can also cause floaters.
If you experience any of these symptoms like flashes of light, photophobia or decline in vision you should see your eye doctor.
You should also keep in mind that if you already have the following conditions:
Known retinal diseases
Previous eye surgery
Any eye trauma
Previous eye inflammation or uveitis
You are on blood thinning medications
Then you may have a higher risk for pathological causes of floaters and it’s a good idea to get your eyes checked.
Your ophthalmologist will use specialized diagnostic equipment to perform an eye examination and verify if your floaters are benign or pathological.
Some of the tests involved are:
- Vision acuity check
- Eye pressure measurement
- Examination of vitreous humor (and retina) under the slit lamp or bio microscope
- Examination of the vitreous humor and retina after eye dilation.
- Photography of the vitreous humor and retina
- Visual field testing to assess loss of central/peripheral vision,
- Retinal tomography imaging to determine the thickness of the retina/optic nerve
- Fluorescein angiography to assess any blood vessel leakage among others.
In general, benign eye floaters do not require any treatment. If you have many dense floaters which affect your sight, then your eye doctor could suggest a laser therapy where lasers are used to break up floaters. A vitrectomy where the vitreous humor and the floaters in it are removed and replaced by an artificial solution is also an optionLeave a reply →