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Floaters in the Eye

What are Floaters in the Eye?

Floaters in the eye, also referred to as muscae volitantes (flying flies) are small shapes that some people see floating in their field of vision.

Floaters arise from degenerative changes within the vitreous gel of the eye and often appear when the vitreous gel separates from the retina to which it is loosely attached. This separation is a normal and common occurrence as the vitreous becomes less ‘gel like’ and more watery with age. This “posterior vitreous detachment” may be precipitated by an injury such as a blow to the head.

Who it Affects

Floaters are very common; most people will have experienced them at some stage as they are a phenomenon of the ageing process, however they can occur in people of a younger age who are shortsighted.

Floaters in the Eye Symptoms

Floaters in the eye can manifest in a variety of ways, often appearing in the shape of dots, threads, dark specks or knobby, transparent strings, insects or pieces of cobwebs in the field of vision.

Floaters tend to follow rapid eye movements but may also drift slowly and an attempt to look at them fails, because the floaters move with the eye.

Floaters are usually harmless and don’t significantly affect your vision. Most people can ignore floaters although they may become more noticeable when looking at an even, light-coloured background such as the sky. Floaters may become troublesome if they are large and may make activities that require concentration, such as reading or driving, difficult. Wearing tinted glasses renders them less intrusive.

Floaters in the Eye Treatment

Unless floaters are multiple or dense treatment is not recommended.

It is possible to remove the vitreous gel and the floaters surgically by vitrectomy. This is an operation to remove the vitreous humour in your eye along with any floating debris and replace it with a saline (salty) solution.

There is a very important caveat regarding floaters which are usually innocent; any floater associated with an awareness of “flashing lights”, tiny sparks or arcs of light may indicate traction on the retina caused by the vitreous gel separating from the retina. This separation may tear the retina and lead to a retinal detachment. If your retina has become detached, surgery is the only way to re-attach it. Without surgery, a total loss of vision is almost certain. In 90% of cases, only one operation is needed to re-attach the retina.

Floaters are in themselves benign, but if accompanied by ‘photopsia’ (light sensations), they require urgent examination by an eye specialist.

Floaters in the Eye Prevention

Floaters are part of the natural ageing process.

A healthy lifestyle may aid in preventing the development of any disease or condition. Sign up for my eBook to find out more.

Further Information

  1. Floaters – http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Floaters/Pages/Introduction.aspx

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