Eye floaters start out to be a clump of jelly. This jelly-like substance is called the vitreous and it's found at the back of our eyes. As we age, tiny strands of the vitreous can form clumps and cast shadows on the retina. Those shadows are the floaters. It's common in old age or in near-sighted people. However, floaters, also called vitreous opacities, can come from other conditions.
Posterior uveitis is inflammation in the layers of the uvea in the back of the eye. This condition can cause the release of inflammatory debris into the vitreous that quality as floaters. Diabetes, hypertension, blocked blood vessels and an eye injury can also cause bleeding into the vitreous and the blood cells can be seen as floaters. Serious causes of floaters include vitreous detachment (when the vitreous pulls away from the retina) and retinal detachment (when the retina gets pulled away from the back of the eye).
Since they're painless, it's easy to dismiss them as harmless. That isn't always the case though. There can be underlying causes that do need medical attention. You are at risk if you're over the age of 50, diabetic, nearsighted, have an autoimmune condition, had previous eye trauma or you've had complications from cataract surgery.
Dark specks or transparent strings of floating material in your vision.
Spots that follow your eye movements.
Spots that are most visible when you look at plain bright backgrounds like a white wall or the sky.
Small shapes or strings that float around your eye, then eventually settle down and drift out of the line of vision.
If you have those symptoms, observe if the floaters multiply in volume, if you get flashes of light in the eye that has the floaters, or if you experience lapses in your peripheral vision. These can be signs of a retinal tear and it's time to visit an eye doctor.
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A dilated eye exam will be conducted to see the back of your eyes and your vitreous so the cause of the floaters can be determined. Most eye floaters do not require treatment. However, if the floaters are actually blood cells from diabetes complications, the underlying cause will need to be treated. If eye floaters also impede your vision, then you may consult with your doctor to have surgery.
Through a small incision, an ophthalmologist will remove the vitreous and replace it with either a saline solution or a bubble made of gas or oil. This procedure is usually reserved for serious cases as it can also cause complications like cataracts and retinal detachment.
At ophthalmologist will use a special laser to break down the floaters in the vitreous to make them less noticeable. While this can improve vision, some patients have reported no difference and that is why this procedure is not done as frequently as surgery.
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