Eye floaters refer to the small spots, cobwebs, and flecks that move around without direction, across the field of vision. Although irksome, the ordinary floaters and spots are not harmful at all. Floaters usually start appearing when petite pieces of gel-like vitreous in the eye break in the internal back portion. This vitreous is consistent right from the day we are born but it starts liquefying to form a watery core by detaching from the retina.
A few undissolved gel pieces sporadically float around in this liquid core of vitreous, and that they can take on different sizes and shapes to be eye floaters. Therefore, floaters become more visible with age.
Usually, these floaters particularly manifest while looking at a clear, bright sky or a white screen of an LCD projector or computer screen. However, those small particles of floating debris are invisible to you, as they are behind the eye lens. Rather, shadows from these particles cast on the retina in light, which is what you get to see.
Another aspect to notice is that these spots do not stay still while focusing on them. They tend to move along with the eyes, which form an impression of ‘drifting’.
When Should You Consider Eye Floaters As a Medical Emergency?
Eye floaters are perhaps a critical condition in case they appear all of a sudden. When shadow is seen along with a light flash occurring as retina obtains non-visual stimulation, it is actually an indicator of instant medical attention.
The sudden appearance of such a symptom indicates that the gel-like vitreous is going away from the retina. It can also mean that retina is getting dislocated from the eye’s inner core that has oxygen, nutrients, and blood essential for a healthy function. In case the retina is torn, the gel can march into the opening and drive out the retina, resulting into a detachment, which is a critical condition that needs to be treated.
According to a study published in the 2009 issue of Journal of the American Medical Association, the sudden visibility of eye floaters indicates that 1 out of 7 patients shall suffer from a retinal detachment or tear. Further, almost up to half of them with a retinal tear shall witness successive detachment.
Therefore, in case of retinal detachment or tear, a medical action needs to be taken instantly so that an eye surgeon can do the needful for restoring the retina along with its function before permanent loss of vision, a risk of untreated eye floaters.
Posterior Vitreous Detachments or PVDs are more widespread than retinal detachments. They are not critical enough to call for a medical emergency even if floaters are witnessed all of a sudden. However, a few vitreous detachments can later harm the retina by pulling on it, resulting in tear or detachment.
Light flashes are often a result of such pulling. In case you only have some eye floaters not changing with the passage of time, it is not a serious eye problem. However, it is essential to see an eye doctor if you experience:
- Worsening of eye floaters over time, particularly if the changes are all of a sudden in the beginning.
- Floaters after an eye trauma or surgery.
- Light flashes or vision loss due to floaters.
- Eye pain with floaters.
Those who have pass through an eye surgery, are quite near-sighted, or are diabetic are more susceptible to complications due to which they need to see an ophthalmologist or an optometrist annually.
Can Eye Floaters Go Away?
With the passage of time, majority of floaters tend to reduce in terms of size and darkness due to naturally concrete absorption of the floaters inside the eye. At times, these floaters can shift within the eye, leading to diluted shadow effect. Moreover, out brain becomes used to the floaters, paying no attention to them. Naturally, the floaters become less troublesome.
How Diagnosis is Done for Choosing the Eye Floaters Treatment
You need to go to an ophthalmologist and inform him frankly about the floaters symptoms while the doctor asks questions. The ophthalmologist shall then check the vision after which the expert uses a slit lamp to look into the eye front. Then, the doctor puts a few drops to dilate the pupils after which the retina and vitreous are checked by using the opthalmoscope’s bright lights. At this point, the eye floaters are clearly seen and their associated abnormalities are detected for further tests as well as proper treatment.