Floaters in the eye are tiny spots or cobwebs that drift around in your field of vision. They can be annoying at times and are a very common complaint of patients seeing an eye doctor. Floaters arise when pieces of the eyes gel like substance, called the vitreous, form either by the aging process or by the vitreous breaking loose from the retina. A comparison might be like looking through cellophane, which when wrinkled appears as if you are seeing shadows or lines. When you look at bright background or a blue sky floaters tend to be more visible. These spots move as your eye moves.
When someone sees numerous floaters in the eye that are sometimes accompanied by flashes of light you must call the eye doctor to the symptoms evaluated. Symptoms can appear suddenly as the vitreous may be pulling away from the retina or the retina itself is developing a hole or tear which could lead to a retinal detachment. One in seven people with sudden floaters and or flashes have a retinal tear or detachment. Most of the time floaters are just a result of the aging process as the gel becomes more liquid and these pieces form.
Posterior vitreous detachments (PVD’s) are more common than retinal detachments. The gel separates itself from the retina and we get floaters as a result. PVD’s can increase in likelihood with nearsightedness, post cataract surgery and post yag laser capsulotomy. As the vitreous tugs on the retina sometimes damage can occur leading to a tear or detachment.
Flashes can occur when the retina is tugged upon by the vitreous gel. This can also be called photopsia.
Most floaters are harmless and fade with time, but the remaining ones can be annoying. Rarely a vitrectomy procedure for a visually impairing floater is done.
Remember that a sudden appearance of floaters either with or without flashes of light could possibly indicate a retinal detachment so the Dr’s at the Fort Lauderdale Eye Institute should be contacted right away.