What are floaters?

Floaters are usually a result of the normal age related condensation of the vitreous humor.  As the vitreous condenses it often results in the presence of visual strands.  Floaters are often descibed as little “cobwebs” or specks that float around in your field of vision. They often described as dark, small shadowy shapes.  They sometimes appear like spots, strands, or squiggly lines. They move as you move and often seem to dart away when you try to look directly at them. They often become more apparent against the blue sky or a white background.  The best historical example would be it is like looking through a snow-globe.

Most people develop floaters by the time they reach there mid 20’s or 30’s, fortunately though most people learn to ignore them.

How do Floaters relate to Retinal Detachments?

Occasionally, when the vitreous detaches from the retina it can result in a retinal tear due to persistent retinal traction.  If a tear does occur this may lead to a retinal detachmet. A retinal detachment is a serious condition and should always be considered an emergency. Patients with an increase in floaters associated peripheral flashes of light or loss of vision should see an Ophthalmologist as soon as possible to rule out the presence of a retinal tear.

What causes floaters?

In most cases, floaters are a normal part of aging and are simply an annoyance. They are usually distracting at first, but eventually tend to “settle” at the bottom of the eye, becoming less of an irritance. However, there are other, more serious causes of floaters.  These including infection, inflammation, hemorrhaging, and or retinal tears.

Who is at risk for floaters?

Floaters are more likely to develop as we age.  They are more common in people who are very nearsighted, have diabetes, or who have already underwent cataract surgery.

How are floaters treated?

For people who have floaters that are simply annoying,  typically no treatment is recommended.  In rare situations when floaters are significantly affecting ones vision surgical removal of the vitreous humor and associated floaters may be considered.

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