Seeing Spots?

Have you ever seen floating spots within your field of vision? They don’t have to be spots. They can also appear as straight or curved lines, strings, branched, or irregularly-shaped blobs. If you have been seeing them, then you may have eye floaters.

Normally, light which is absorbed by the eye passes through a jellylike material called the vitreous humor and focuses on the retina which allows one to see. The vitreous humor is totally clear during the early stages of life but as one ages, strands or deposits develop within the vitreous humor and cast a small shadow on the surface of the retina, which people see as eye floaters. These strands change in position as the eye moves around its socket, causing them to seem to “float”, hence the term “floaters”.

The density and pattern of eye floaters varies from person to person. Despite their uniqueness, eye floaters have these things in common:

  • They appear more noticeable under certain lighting conditions and are more obvious when looking at the bright sky.

  • People who see eye floaters describe them to be grey and darker in color than the background.

  • Eye floaters could not be seen in darkness or with eyes closed.

The development of eye floaters could be attributed to any eye condition which could affect the clarity of the vitreous humor. One of the normal occurrences which form eye floaters is aging. As people age, the collagen fibers within the vitreous humor becomes thick and dense which cast shadows and also result in eye floaters.

There are also abnormalities which produce eye floaters:

  • Bleeding into ones vitreous (hemorrhage) secondary to eye injury.

  • Retinal tearing.

  • Retinal damage secondary to underlying medical conditions such as diabetes.

  • Inflammation in the vitreous caused by infection, inflammation or eye surgery.

  • Near-sightedness which accelerates the development of strands in the vitreous humor.

Although eye floaters are can be an annoyance, they are not dangerous by themselves. Most eye floaters shrink in time due to the natural eye processes which absorb eye floaters within the eye. Also, the nerves within the eyes learn to adapt and become used to the presence of eye floaters. Relaxation techniques can be used to hasten the adaptation to persistent eye floaters.

However, a sudden onset of eye floaters associated with flashing lights could signify a retinal tear which requires immediate medical attention.

Currently, herbs, vitamins and iodine-containing products have been linked to reduced eye floaters. For eye floaters which are caused by inflammation or infection, taking the appropriate anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics will help reduce eye floaters. Surgical removal of eye floaters can also be done with a YAG laser or making multiple incisions into the eye.

Having eye floaters is not a reason to panic. “Eye floaters are common and almost everyone would have them by age 70,” says Dr. Wallshein, ophthalmologist and specialist in eye floaters. “In spite of that, it’s still necessary to see an ophthalmologist to determine if your eye floaters are a symptom of a more serious condition or just merely an annoying companion to aging.”

For the best in eye care, schedule an appointment with Dr. Jay S. Wallshein at the Palm Beach Eye Center.