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Eye Floaters

Eye floaters are visual effects that occur in your field of view. Most people experience them regularly; floaters are the threads or specks that float before your eyes. Experiencing this effect is known as myodesopsia.

Floaters are most pronounced when looking at a bright light or a field of solid color. When lying on your back, the deposits float to the center of your eye and floaters are easier to see. This is why floaters appear when looking up at a blue sky. They are not optical illusions however. Floaters are caused by physical defects in the eye. The vitreous body is the jelly-like substance that gives the eye its shape. Sometimes gel particles can clump together and harden. These hardened deposits can move around in the more liquid vitreous.  When light enters the eye, it passes through the normally clear vitreous to the retina, which forms the images. As the light moves through the vitreous it hits the deposits, casting a shadow on the retina. The deposits are microscopic, but the projections cause them to appear much larger. This is what causes the floaters to appear in your field of view.

                                            

Floaters most frequently appear as stringy, worm-like structures. Other times they are specks or form intricate patterns cobweb-like patterns. Floaters, as their name implies, are mobile. When attempting to focus on one, they move away. This is because the deposits that form them are free to move within the vitreous. When your eye moves to focus on them, the floaters move as well. This gives floaters the effect of constantly being off-center.

For the most part, floaters are harmless. If you only have a few, your mind will consciously ignore them. Almost all cases of floaters are simply due to age. As the eye ages, the vitreous becomes less like a gel and more like liquid. This causes more hard deposits to form, thus creating more floaters. In more rare cases, a sudden increase in floaters may indicate retinal detachment, when the retina is pulled away from supporting. This usually comes along with seeing bright flashes of light and should be treated immediately.

Another less serious cause for floaters is a vitreous detachment. This is also side effect of aging. When the vitreous becomes more liquid it cannot support its peripheries. The vitreous begins to deteriorate and shrink. The vitreous will then slide past the retina, stimulating it and causing floaters.

Some patients have a severe case of floaters. They are mainly gathered around the peripheral vision but sometimes drift pass the central field of view. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for severe floaters or the vitreous detachment that causes them. A vitrectomy may be successful in treating more mild floaters. A vitrectomy is when a piece of the vitreous is removed, taking the floaters with it. Laser surgery can be used to break apart the deposits that cast a shadow on the retina. Multiple treatments may be necessary.