Floaters

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Sent by: Emaan

By floater here, I do not mean a person who frequently changes occupation or residence. Nor do I mean a worker who is required to do a variety of tasks as the need for each arises. It is that loose particle within the eyeball which is apparent in one's field of vision.
 

What are eye floaters?
"Eye floaters" are deposits or condensation in the vitreous jelly of the eye. People use the term eye floaters to describe seeing floating spots within their vision when they look around. Eye floaters may be present in only one eye or both eyes. Eye floaters can be annoying, but they generally don't interfere with your sight.
Occasionally a particularly large eye floater may cast a subtle shadow over your vision. But this tends to occur only in certain types of light.
Most of the time people learn to live with eye floaters and ignore them. And they often improve over months to years.

Symptoms
Eye floaters move as the eyes move. They generally appear to dart away when you try to focus on them.
Eye floaters can appear in many different shapes, such as:
•   Black or gray dots
•   Squiggly lines
•   Threadlike strands, which can be knobby and semi-transparent
•   Cobwebs
•   Ring shaped
Some people see a single floater while others may think they see hundreds. The lines may be thick or thin, and they sometimes appear to be branched. To most people, they appear grey and darker in color than the background. The density of different eye floaters will vary within an individual eye. Eye floaters may be more noticeable under certain lighting conditions and be more apparent when looking at a bright sky. Floaters are rarely seen in situations with reduced illumination.
Like fingerprints, no two people have exactly identical patterns of eye floaters. If a person has eye floaters in both eyes, the pattern of the eye floaters in each eye will be different. In any eye that has eye floaters, that pattern of eye floaters may also change over time.
Eye floaters always appear darker than the background and cannot be seen in darkness or with the eyes closed. This is unlike flashes, which often are seen in the dark and with your eyes closed. Once you develop eye floaters they usually do not go away, though they tend to improve over time.

 

Causes
Most eye floaters are caused by small flecks of a protein called collagen. The back compartment of the eye is filled with a gel-like substance called vitreous humor. As you age, the vitreous and its millions of fine collagen fibers shrink and become shred-like. Shreds can accumulate in the vitreous. This can cause a change in the amount of light that hits the retina -- the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. This change causes the symptoms of eye floaters.
These changes can happen at any age. They most often occur between ages 50 and 75, especially in people who are very nearsighted or have had cataract surgery. It is unusual for children under 16 years of age to notice eye floaters.
Rarely, eye floaters can result from eye surgery or:
•   Eye disease
•    Eye injury
•   Diabetic retinopathy
•   Crystal-like deposits that form in the vitreous
•   Eye tumors such as lymphoma (rarely)
Serious eye disorders associated with eye floaters include:
•   Retinal detachment
•   Retinal tear
•   Vitreous hemorrhage (bleeding)
•   Vitreous and retinal inflammation caused by viral infections, fungal infections, or auto-immune inflammation
•   Eye tumors
In addition, a unique form of eye floaters is associated with the visual aura of migraine headaches.

 

When to Seek Medical Attention?
If you only have a few eye floaters that don't change over time, it usually does not indicate a serious eye problem.

 

It's important to see a doctor if:
•   Eye floaters seem to worsen over time, especially if the changes are sudden in onset.
•   You experience flashes of light or any vision loss accompanied by eye floaters.
•   You develop eye floaters after eye surgery or eye trauma.
•   You have eye pain along with eye floaters.

 

Treatment
Benign eye floaters almost never require medical treatment.
If they are bothersome, you can move them away from your field of vision by moving your eyes. This maneuver shifts the fluid in your eyes. Looking up and down is usually more effective than looking from side to side.

 

Removal through Medication
Although certain herbs, vitamins, and iodine-containing products have been touted as effective in decreasing eye floaters, none of these have been proven effective in clinical trials. In the unusual cases in which the eye floaters are due to white blood cells in the vitreous from inflammation or infection, appropriate anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics will reduce the number of white blood cells. There are no oral or eye drop medications of value for the reduction of the common type of eye floaters.

 

Surgical Removal
If eye floaters are so dense and numerous that they affect your vision, your eye doctor may consider a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy. During this procedure, the vitreous and its floating debris are removed and replaced with a salt solution.
Vitrectomy may have complications, such as:
•   Retinal detachment
•   Retinal tears
•   Cataracts
The risks of such complications are quite high. Most surgeons will not perform vitrectomy unless eye floaters are seriously affecting the patient's vision.