When a person is suffering from eye floaters, it means that they are experiencing disturbances in their vision. These vision disturbances look like spots that float across a person’s vision. These can also look similar to spider webs, flecks, or other small patches that appear to block the vision.
In technical terms, eye floaters are small deposits or pieces of the vitreous fluid or gel in the eye. The vitreous gel or fluid is in the posterior (back or inner) part of the eye and is what light passes through after it goes through the retina. As a person ages, it often changes in consistency and eye floaters tend to become more common in the process.
Most commonly, eye floaters are caused by the aging process of the eyes. However, there are other possible causes of eye floaters as well. If a person has an infection or other type of disease that causes the back of the eye to become inflamed, they may experience eye floaters. Diabetes may lead to this eye condition, as well as cataract or other eye surgery, or a torn retina. Tumors could also cause eye floaters.
The most common symptom of eye floaters is black or grey spots that float or move across a person’s visual field. Some of these spots will be more fixed and will not move. These are also considered to be eye floaters. The spots that you notice in your vision may also be more noticeable when you are in bright light or looking at something that is solid in color.
There are several potential causes of eye floaters.
Age is one factor. During your youth and most of adulthood, the eye is filled with a gel-like substance known as the vitreous. As you age, the middle of the vitreous starts to take on a more liquid consistency. However, some small pieces of the gel-like substance may remain, casting a shadow on the retina and causing floaters.
A posterior vitreous detachment (PVDs) can also cause floaters. This is where the vitreous detaches from the retina slightly. Over time, this detachment can pull at the retina, potentially causing a retinal tear, which can also cause eye floaters. PVDs are usually caused by the liquefaction of the vitreous, meaning that the center can no longer hold the weight of the gel on top. However, both PVDs and retinal tears can also be caused by trauma to the eye.
People who have diabetes, inflammation in the eye, retinitis, or who are nearsighted, are at greater risk of PVDs and eye floaters, as are people who have had cataract surgery.
The majority of eye floaters do not require treatment. They will fade or go away all on their own without any treatment.
If eye floaters are particularly bothersome, relaxation techniques and meditation can be helpful to better cope with the condition. When caused by an infection or other medical condition, treating that condition can help to reduce or resolve eye floaters as well. Laser treatments or surgery may also be options for eye floaters that severely impact a person’s vision.
There is currently no measure you can take to prevent age-related eye floaters caused by liquefaction of the vitreous, or PVDs. However, if a PVD is present and it is detected early and treated, this can prevent a retinal tear, which itself can be a cause of further eye floaters.
As eye floaters can be caused by trauma to the eye, you can prevent them by taking proper precautions to prevent impact to the eye area. This means wearing appropriate protective eyewear during certain types of work, and when playing contact sports.
Where eye floaters are caused by another illness or condition, they may be prevented by early detection and treatment of that condition. For example, people suffering from diabetes can prevent eye floaters through the proper monitoring and management of their blood glucose levels.