Our doctors get lots of questions about floaters in the eye, and odds are some of you are the ones asking! So, we figured we would chat with Benjamin Yanofsky, O.D., F.A.A.O., from Advanced Eyecare of Arizona in Mesa, AZ, to help us shed some light on this condition.
What are floaters in the eye?
If you’ve ever noticed flecks, webs, spots, streaks, or squiggly shapes in your vision, odds are you’ve experienced floaters. “This is a common condition that originates in the vitreous humor – a gel-like substance that provides support to your eye,” says Dr. Yanofsky. “For various reasons, some known and some unknown, this substance can develop clumps that obstruct light as it passes to the retina. This results in subtle inconsistencies in the way light passes through the eye as these clumps float around – hence the title, floaters.”
What causes floaters in the eye?
Floaters in the eye have a few common causes:
- Head trauma
Sometimes, there is no clear cause for floaters. The good news is that they aren’t inherently dangerous. Dr. Yanofsky comments, “Someone could experience floaters for years and have 20/20 vision and healthy eyes. Other times, they can indicate harmful conditions that might be on the horizon, especially if they are accompanied by flashes of light.”
What are the symptoms of floaters in the eye?
Aside from noticing particles floating around in your vision, there aren’t any other symptoms of floaters. Most floaters are harmless, but be sure to mention them at your annual eye exam so your VSP doctor can take a closer look at your eyes to make sure everything looks normal.
“Trouble comes if floaters appear suddenly, you notice flashing of light in your eyes, or you see any veil-like obstruction to your vision,” explains Dr. Yanofsky. These could be signs of a more serious condition, and you should contact your VSP doctor immediately. “Retinal detachment is the most common and most serious condition behind sudden floaters, flashes, or ‘visual curtains,’” says Dr. Yanofsky. “Retinal breaks can occur in about 10% of these cases, and up to half of these can progress to detachment,” continues Dr. Yanofsky. Because your retina is absolutely essential to clear vision, you risk permanent vision loss or blindness if your retina isn’t functioning properly.
How are floaters and flashes in the eye treated?
The first step toward treatment is a comprehensive eye exam with your VSP doctor. If they notice that your retina is detaching from the back of your eyes, surgery will most likely be in order. “If everything in your eye looks as it should,” explains Dr. Yanofsky, “the most you can do to ‘cure’ floaters is to experiment with laying down, sitting up, or moving your head side to side to try to get gravity to move the floater out of your line of sight. There are no scientifically proven eye drops, medications, vitamins, or diets that will reduce or eliminate floaters once they have formed.”
The best thing you can do is to maintain a healthy eye routine to reduce your risk of developing multiple eye issues stacked on top of each other. A healthy diet, regular exercise, protection from the sun, and annual eye exams are the best ways to keep your eyes healthy and minimize the effects of conditions like floaters.
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