Floaters Defined: What Are Those Squiggles and Dots in Your Vision?
“I see cobwebs in my vision!” or “There’s a fly in my eye!”
You’re not alone – we’ve heard it all. They manifest as spots, squiggly lines, or blobs that appear in your field of vision. Sometimes they stay in the same pesky position in your vision, other times they dart away when you try to look at them directly. They’re most prominent when looking at the blue sky or a bright/white background.
What are floaters and how do they form?
The eyeball is filled with a clear gel-like substance called the vitreous humor. The vitreous helps maintain the shape of the eyeball. Through the normal aging process, the vitreous starts to liquefy and shrink. As this occurs, tiny stringy fibers can form, and cast a shadow on the retina (the tissue at the back of the eye that is responsible for your vision), which create the image you see in your field of vision.
Should I be worried about seeing floaters?
In some cases, floaters can be a sign of something more serious. A sudden onset of numerous new floaters may be an indication of a retinal tear or detachment. When in conjunction with seeing flashes of light (like a camera flash) or a curtain/veil coming down over your vision, these are signs to seek an eye care professional immediately. Retinal tears or detachments are considered a medical emergency and require immediate attention.
Is there any treatment for floaters?
In most individuals, floaters are an occasional nuisance that appear in their visual field. Most of the time, the floaters settle toward the bottom of the eye with time, and infrequently reappear. In these cases, no treatment is recommended. In very rare cases, when floaters are numerous and dense, a vitrectomy may be performed. This is a surgical procedure that removes the vitreous from the eye and a gas bubble or solution is inserted to replace it. There are significant risks to this operation and is only recommended if floaters are significantly affecting vision.