Floaters are tiny, dark shadows that resemble squiggly lines, thread-like strands or spots. They move with your eyes and appear to speed away if you try looking directly at them. They don’t track your eye movements, and usually float around when you keep your eyes stationary.
Most people learn to ignore them or don’t notice them unless they become numerous or significant. Floaters tend to be more visible when you look at something with a bright background, such as a blue sky or white paper. While eye floaters are bothersome, they usually don’t interfere with your sight or cause serious problems. Although annoying, the brain eventually adapts and learns to ignore them.
Floaters occur when the vitreous gel that fills the eye and helps it keep its round shape gradually shrinks. The shrinkage creates strands that cast little shadows which appear as eye floaters. They also develop as we age and are more prevalent in people who have diabetes, cataract surgery or are extremely nearsighted. However, there are other serious causes of floaters, such as:
- Retinal tears
- Injury to the eye
- Retinal detachment
Eye floaters are commonly found in people after age 50, and most experience at least one occurrence of floaters in their lives.
Treatment of Eye Floaters
Benign floaters rarely require medical attention. However, if they become dense and numerous enough to significantly block your vision, you might want to consider exploring a surgical procedure known as a vitrectomy. This type of surgery removes the vitreous gel along with the eye floaters.
During surgery, the vitreous is replaced with a saline solution. In just a few days, your body replaces the solution with natural fluids. Because the original vitreous is mostly water, there will not be any noticeable change between the aqueous fluid and the original vitreous.
The risks to this surgery include the possibility of permanent damage, such as retinal detachment, retinal tears and cataracts. For that reason, many eye doctors do not recommend a vitrectomy unless the floaters are creating an extraordinary visual handicap.