Floater in eye is a condensation or a deposit in the eye?s vitreous jelly. The term is often used to describe floating spots within the periphery of vision when eyeballs are moved around or during simple gazing. It can be seen in either eye vision periphery or in the areas of vision of both eyes.
Why do people see floater in eye?
Light beams are focused upon the retina through the lens and cornea located in front of the eye. The light that goes up to the retina need to pass through a jelly-like structure that occupies nearly two-thirds of the back portion of an eyeball, known as the vitreous humor. This jelly is normally clear without any strains during early years starting from birth to childhood. As age creeps in, the vitreous jelly slowly starts containing pockets of liquid, deposits or strands that tend to shadow small areas over the retina.
These are the floaters that we occasionally see when we move our eyes up, down or sideways. What happens is that these deposits, pockets of liquid or strands tend to get displaced with eye movement, and the corresponding shadows over the surface of the retina undulate or move around, thus giving the perception of floaters moving within the vision.
What does a floater in eye appear like?
Floaters are normally blobs or specks of bright or dark spots that are sometimes straight, sometimes curved, sometimes like strings, and at other times in the shape of an ?O? or a ?C?. The numbers of floaters seen vary among individuals. Sometimes only one floater is seen and at other times, there are literally hundreds floating around in the field of vision.
The lines of floaters may either be thin or thick, sometimes in clusters, and sometimes in branches. They may either be bright spots or gray spots that are darker than vision background. Floaters are normally not perceived in areas where light is less. They are more frequently observed when looking at bright light sources like a clear sky or when looking directly at the sun. The thickness and density of floaters vary from person to person, although they normally are so small that they really are undistinguishable as to their thickness or density.
The pattern of floaters vary from person to person., and even eye to eye in the same person. That is because the shadows of pockets of liquid or strands on the retina vary, and is solely dependent on the deposit pattern in the jelly structure behind the eyeball. These floater patterns tend to change with time since the deposits tend to merge or move around within the jelly, causing their respective shadows and consequent floaters to be different.
Why is an eye floater caused?
With the process of aging, the vitreous jelly gets altered through liquefaction naturally. This results in small liquid pockets to form within the jelly. The boundaries between these pockets and the jelly of the eyeball are what transitions to floaters in the field of vision. With age, the collagen of the fibers within the eyeball also tend to thicken up and this is an additional cause to see floaters outside the eye.
Moreover, with time the vitreous structure shrinks within the eyeball and causes the back portion of the structure to move forward. The optic nerve is connected to this back structure, and as it shrinks the attachment loosens up and finally detaches, causing it to be left loose and float around.
This again causes a floater that is relatively larger in size than others, which are merely shadows of liquid pockets or strands over the retina. Injuries or diseases of the eye like diabetic retinopathy, retinal tear, nearsightedness etc. may also cause floaters.
Is a floater in eye dangerous?
A floater or floaters by themselves are not dangerous, though they might be indicative of a disease process lurking in the background like retinal detachment or vitreous detachment. For instance, if there is the sudden appearance of a large number of floaters or floaters seen with flashing lights, it might indicate a retinal tear that if not treated expeditiously may lead to retinal detachment.
How is a floater in eye diagnosed?
An ophthalmologist is the best person to determine whether the floater poses any imminent risk to a person or not. The eye will be examined through a slit lamp, and if nothing is found, the pupil will be dilated with drops to examine the vitreous structure and retina. The ophthalmologist will be able to visualize the floaters after this through a microscope, and will be able to diagnose the exact cause of the floater/floaters. Treatment of eye floaters
Most eye floaters go away on their own and do not require any treatment. This is because the liquid pockets or the strands are absorbed within the jelly-like structure over time. They might also shift in location where they are no longer able to cast shadows over the retina. Moreover, the brain tends to adapt to any changes within the body and over time we tend to ignore the floaters similar to what we do about breathing or sleeping that have become an integral part of our existence. This process is known as neuro-adaptation, meaning the nerves are commanded by the brain to adapt to changes that are of routine nature.
While there is no treatment for floaters caused by vitreous detachment since detachment itself is not curable or preventible, the floaters tend to get accepted by the brain and are slowly unnoticeable or less annoying over time. Techniques in relaxation help soothe the nerves and hasten the process of adaptation somewhat, where floaters might still be present but are not bothersome any longer.
Various vitamins, herbs, and products containing iodine have been claimed to reduce floaters, though they have not been proven so far through clinical trials to do so. Sometimes antibiotics or anti-inflammatories might help in case floaters are caused by white blood cells, though there are no authentic eyedrops or medications that are known to eliminate floaters.
Sometimes surgeries like the YAG laser system is used to eliminate floaters, but using laser in the eye poses significant risk to an otherwise healthy eye and needs to be avoided as far as possible. Vitrectomy also takes away the vitreous and this eliminates floaters, though the process of vitrectomy is used for other causes like clearance of debris or blood from the vitreous and not solely for removal of floaters.
Thus, there is really no treatment for a floater in eye, and it is best to leave it alone. It will slowly adapt into our system over time. However, the appearance of larger floaters might be indicative of a budding disease, and it is best to visit an ophthalmologist to determine the cause in such an instance.