A common, yet at times frustrating affliction, eye floaters can appear in your line of vision at anytime. They often look like specs, dust, smudges or cobwebs that seem to drift aimlessly over your eye. What you’re seeing is not on the eye, but shadows cast by clumps of cells behind the cornea. In the medical world these are called vitreous floaters.
These spots are quite common in adults. They can slowly appear, or become more noticeable as we age.
Our eyes are made up of a gel-like consistency called vitreous. When we are born and throughout our youth this material is intact, but as we age it begins to dissolve and break apart. Some of the undissolved clumps of cells may begin to float in your line of vision casting a shadow on your retina, which blocks small portions of light from entering your eye. Posterior vitreous detachments (PVDs) are common causes of vitreous floaters.
As we age, the vitreous gel continues to fill the back of the eye, pressing on and attaching to the retina. As the vitreous becomes more watery it cannot support its own weight and collapses into itself, detaching from the retina. Depending on severity, this can produce a large group of floaters and even appear as flashes in the eye, much like if you were to receive an injury and are ‘seeing stars’. When the retina is tugged on, a flicker of light may occur and continue to be bothersome until the retina is repaired.
Although more than half of the aging population will develop posterior vitreous detachment by the age of 80, most of these cases do not result in a fully detached retina.
Although this is a common occurrence and nothing to be alarmed about, there are a few things that one should seek medical attention for:
The appearance of these symptoms could mean that the vitreous is pulling away from your retina. It could also mean that the retina itself is becoming dislodged from the back of the eye.
Mild symptoms may fade over time in which no treatment is necessary.
When eye floaters and/or flashes become bothersome, come see us. Medical advancements have eliminated the need for invasive procedures, like a vitrectomy, as the risks outweighed the success of the treatment itself.