Updated November 2019
Approaching the topic of eye floaters can be a double-edged sword. In most cases, seeing a couple specks or strands of floaters is not a cause for concern. However, seeing many floaters suddenly can spell permanent damage to your vision if you do not seek medical help immediately.
But what are these floaters? And how can you know if they are going to affect your vision?
Benign floaters are usually caused by your eyes aging but can be seen at any age. As you get older, the jelly-like substance inside your eye, known as vitreous, becomes partially liquified. This process changes the shape of your eye and the vitreous starts to clump and string together.
These clumps and strings block light entering your eye, creating a shadow on your retina which we call floaters. These are quite harmless.
However, floaters are a cause for concern if you see many of them at once. The reason for there to be a lot of floaters suddenly in your vision can be varied, but all can mean vision loss if you do not look for emergency help immediately.
Common floaters affect your vision quite minimally and you can experience them in a couple of different ways. They can look like semi-transparent specks or strings, sometimes moving on their own or whenever you move your eye. Floaters are most noticeable if you are looking at bright surfaces, like white walls or computer screens.
A burst of floaters or floaters developing at a much more frequent rate are an emergency and can signify eye damage. These floaters can be caused by a retinal tear, bleeding in the eye, or even the complete detachment of your retina. You will be able to tell this is an emergency because you will also experience:
- Eye pain
- Floaters occurring frequently with changing sizes and shapes
- Blurred or lost vision
If you start experiencing floaters more often than normal, contact your eye care specialist to book an examination. During your exam, your doctor will dilate your eyes to get a better look at the vitreous. Depending on what they discover, they can recommend different treatment options to alleviate your symptoms.
Treating floaters happens pretty infrequently and is only recommended if they are impeding your vision. Your ophthalmologist can recommend either surgery to remove vitreous or using lasers to break the floaters up.
In the surgery, your ophthalmologist makes a small incision in your eye and removes vitreous, along with its floaters. The vitreous is replaced with a fluid to help the eye keep a normal shape. While it can help reduce the number of floaters you see, it might not be able to remove all floaters, and new ones can still develop.
An ophthalmologist can also use a laser, which is aimed at the floaters to break them down. That being said, it does not remove the floaters entirely and some patients have stated they have experienced no difference in their vision.
What Can You Do?
The best way to prepare your optometrist to help you deal with your floaters is to come to the appointment with a list of all your symptoms, medications, and questions you might have. From there, your optometrist can recommend the right treatment for you.
Request your appointment today if you are looking for relief from your eye floaters!