1. What are eye floaters? They are tiny specks floating in the visual field variously described as dark, black, brown or gray in color and may be visible as dots, threads, cobwebs or any irregular shape. A floater is not present in front of the eye or on the surface of the eye but is actually a shadow cast on the retina by cells, fibers or blood ‘inside’ the eye – in the vitreous as illustrated in the image above.
2. Floaters are more clearly visible when you look at bright and well-lit surfaces especially light colored walls and the sky.
3. Floaters are normal in majority of cases. It may be considered as part of aging. Even children and teenagers may have them without any obvious pathology or disease. Most of the adults have a few floaters in their eyes.
4. Floaters may also appear as a result of various eye diseases. Some of these conditions are painful while some are painless. Posterior vitreous detachment, retinal detachment, uveitis, retinitis and choroiditis are some examples which can cause floaters. The appearance of floaters is sudden or acute in these conditions and may be associated with flashes, also called as photopsia.
5. Floaters may decrease in size and number over a period of time or they may persist. They may even increase in size and number – it all depends on the cause of the floaters.
6. Diabetes is an important condition in which bleeding inside the eye may cause sudden appearance of floaters which could be quite large in size and can even cause severe vision loss.
7. In majority of the cases, floaters do not require any treatment especially if there is no associated eye disease. The simplest solution in such cases is to not pay attention to floaters.
8. Treatment of pathological floaters depends on the cause. For inflammatory or infective diseases, treatment aims to control them with medications. For conditions which cause bleeding in the vitreous, surgery such as vitrectomy may be required to remove blood. Laser treatment can also be used to prevent further bleeding.
9. If you don’t have floaters and want to prevent or delay them, just have a balanced diet, don’t strain your eyes and see your ophthalmologist (eye MD) whenever you have any eye complaints.
10. Remember, any sudden appearance of floaters, especially if the floaters are large and/or are associated with flashes and/or pain should alarm you. A detailed examination by your doctor is urgently required in such a case. Early intervention will ensure early recovery and favorable outcome.
If you have any questions, please write them in the comments below.