Floaters in the Eye: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
What are Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters are spots in your field of vision that may look black or gray. They have the appearance of specks, strings or cobwebs that drift in your field of view as you move your eyes. Floaters are more visually apparent when looking at the blue sky or something that is lighter in color (like a white wall or paper).
What are the Symptoms of Eye Floaters
Eye floaters appear as one or more of the following in your field of vision:
- Black or gray dots
- Squiggly lines
- Strands that are threadlike. They can be semi transparent.
- Ring shaped
If you develop floaters, they usually do not go away. But as time progresses, you do tend to ignore them. Your brain will think they're not there and tune them out. Though, they are highly a nuisance in daily life.
Eye Floater Simulation
What Causes Eye Floaters?
It is said that eye floaters are more prevalent and caused with increased age. When you have floaters, it is said that the jelly-like substance (vitreous gel) inside of your eyes becomes more liquid as it pulls away from your retina.
According to WebMD, some eye floaters can be caused by:
- Eye disease
- Eye injury (such as a blow to the eye or head)
- Diabetic retinopathy (in which you're diabetic)
- Crystal-like deposits that form in the vitreous of the eye
- Intraocular tumors (such as lymphoma)
- Foreign bodies within the eye
People who are very nearsighted also get more floaters. This is due to the curvature and the shape of the eye itself, which later pulls on the retina, causing it to separate.
Great video that explains eye floaters
Are Eye Floaters Serious?
If you are seeing floaters, it is recommended to check with your healthcare provider (i.e.-eye doctor) to check if there is a problem. Most often, seeing a few floaters is okay and progresses with age. However, sometimes, such as my situation, there is a problem. It is always best to seek medical attention just to be sure than to regret and be sorry in the end. This is, of course, your eyes.
What happens during your initial eye exam for floaters?
During the initial exam, your doctor will perform some or all of the following exams and tests:
- Ask you questions regarding what your floaters appear to look like, the frequency, size, and in which eye(s). You can have floaters in both eyes. Your doctor will ask you if you see a sudden onset in floaters or flashes of light.
- Do you have any health problems or concerns?
- Did anything occur (that you know of) that could have caused the floaters to occur?
- Any prescription medications, vitamins, supplements you are taking?
- Did you experience a blow to the head?
- The doctor will test your vision. This is generally the easy part. Everyone has read eye charts before, and this is checking how good your eyes are.
- Next, the doctor should test eye pressure (this is mainly for checking for glaucoma) with the air puff test. If there is too much pressure in the eyes, this can lead to complications.
- After that, the doctor will probably put in eye drops to dilate your pupils. This is required for him to see inside of you eyes easily. The dilating eye drops do sting when instilled, but this stinging is temporary. You will then wait about 10-15 minutes for the drops to work.
- When you're later called back in for the exam, the doctor will shine a bright light in your eye(s). He's looking to see if there is any problems. If he finds anything, he'll let you know of his findings. This is called the slit lamp test.
- If a more in depth look is required, the doctor will possibly insert a large lens on to your eyes. Before doing so, he will instill another drop in your eye so that it will be numb. The large lens is lubricated and will provide him with more magnification into your eye.
- Lastly, for your doctor's records, you may be requested to do photography of the eye. This is called fundus photography.
Expect to spend at least an hour at your exam. Also, keep in mind that your eyes will be dilated and you will need to have someone drive you home. Don't attempt to drive with your eyes dilated.
My Story & experience with Eye Floaters
I clearly remember the year of 2006. I had visited my opthamologist for an annual appointment. I had been putting off seeing him because I hate going to the doctor. I had only visited an eye doctor to get glasses when I had to get my driver's permit and later my license. So I had not seen my doctor in over 15 years.
Prior to seeing my opthamologist, I did remember having difficulty seeing because I had what appeared to be floaters in my field of vision. They were getting very irritating to me and decided it was time to find out what and why. My experience was not a fun one after that.
After examination, my doctor told me that I had a lot of "lattice" (see what lattice degeneration is here) in my eyes (both of them) and that I had a retinal tear in my left eye. He said that it would require laser to prevent the tear from getting larger or if it were to break. I had no idea what to expect. I was highly depressed, anxious and had moments of despair during the week that led up to the laser procedure. I didn't know what to expect and was doing as much research as I could. The day of the appointment arrived. I had taken off a full day of work and also took off the following day not knowing what to expect.
I was given eye drops to numb my eye. After a few minutes, my doctor inserted a large lubricated lens onto my eye. I sat at the slit lamp and he turned on the laser machine. After what happened next was all a blur to me. I remember blasts of bright green light flashing with every pulse of the laser. They say that in your eyes you have no feeling of pain as it is internal. However, the power of the laser and the pulse of the laser does hurt. It stings. If I were to explain how it feels, it would be like being snapped by a rubber band in your eye. It feels like a sting or a pinch. Not very comfortable at all.
My doctor was using the laser and creating scar tissue around the retinal break or hole. This would be from the tear getting larger and causing a full blown retina detachment. It takes many pulses of the laser (one blast creates a tiny dot), sometimes at least 50, to completely surround an area.
I'm not sure as to how I have gotten lattice degeneration and retinal tears. But apparently, your retina is a thin piece of tissue. Sort of like tissue paper thin. And when you have portions of it that are weak or compromised, it can lead to a retina tear and/or detachment. The telltale signs of this in the beginning is eye floaters and even flashes of light.
After having this, I'm more aware of what I've been doing for activities and even the foods that I eat.
Who should get an exam if seeing eye floaters?
In short, you should be seeing your doctor if you notice any of the following:
- You have never had floaters before, but now you begin to see them OR they appear to be more than normal
- You have seen floaters, but they have now increased visually
- You have seen floaters before, but they look and appear different than previous
- The floaters you see make it hard for you to complete or do your daily tasks
- You see a shadow or curtain blocking part of your side vision (this is VERY important and require immediate attention. This could mean that your retina is detaching.)
Coping & Treatment of Eye Floaters
For the people and loved ones in your life who do not know what eye floaters are, it is very important for them to be supportive of your condition. I'm lucky to have a few of these special people in my life who understand what I am going through and they give me full support and motivation.
It is important to see your opthamologist every year (or as prescribed by your healthcare provider). If they can catch something in the early stages, its much better than to treat and prevent.
Understand that you did nothing wrong to get eye floaters. Even if you do not have any of the underlying causes listed, you can get eye floaters. You can be perfectly healthy and still get eye floaters.
Maintaining healthy eyesight
It is very important to protect your eyes. Here's some tips to help:
- ALWAYS protect your eyes from the sun. Even if it is overcast outside. Wear sunglasses! For tips on how to choose the correct sunglasses, visit this hub.
- ALWAYS protect your eyes when working with objects that can fly into them. This means that if you work on a construction site or are a mechanic, etc., always wear goggles or safety glasses.
- If you are a smoker, quit smoking. I don't smoke, and I try to avoid being around people who are smoking. Merely smelling the smoke is bad for you (second hand smoke).
We rely so much on our eyes in our daily life. If we lose this precious gift of vision, it becomes hard to accomplish many activities that we once could do on our own. I cannot emphasize it enough to always get yearly or bi-annual vision exams.
I am not a medical professional. I wrote this because I felt the need to share and educate others with my story. I want everyone out there to know of this problem that many people out there have. Many are afraid and embarrassed to say they experience this because it's not a problem that others can see (visually) from the outside. If you know of someone who has eye floaters, please have sympathy for them.
Do YOU have eye floaters?
Are you aware of a loved one that has eye floaters?
© 2012 jaydawg808