If you’ve ever been looking around and suddenly notice a faint spot or shadow in your vision, you may be experiencing eye floaters. These can seem like a small piece of dust or dirt stuck on a lens or windshield and seem like there’s something in your eye, but blinking them away doesn’t work. The shapes and shadows move as you move your eyes.
Floaters in your vision are very common and often don’t require treatment. However, if you are experiencing new floaters, make an appointment with one of the optometrists at Gilbert Eye Care in Norfolk or Virginia Beach, VA to make sure it isn’t a sign of a more serious eye condition.
What are eye floaters & their types?
There are several types of eye floaters – some can appear as a slight shadow, some can be black floaters in the eye, some can appear lighter in color. They can also appear in different shapes, from specks to shadows to string or web-like.
Regardless of how they appear, floaters in your eyes are caused by the gradual breakdown of the vitreous that fills your eye. Vitreous is a gel-like substance within the middle of your eye and as we age, it begins to shrink and solidify, creating floaters.
The solidified parts of the vitreous can slowly float through the eye’s gel. As they move throughout the eye, they can pass in front of the center of the retina (or the eye’s macula), allowing you to see them.
Though floaters can be annoying, they often become less pronounced as you get used to them. This process is considered common and a part of the natural aging process, in most cases you won’t need eye floater treatment.
Often, eye floaters and flashes will occur around the same time. Flashes are different from floaters in that they can look like either lightning or camera flashes.
Whether you are experiencing standalone floaters or eye floaters and flashes, you should check in with your eye doctor as they can sometimes be a sign of a more serious eye condition, such as retinal detachment.
What causes eye floaters?
The development of new eye floaters could be prompted by a few causes, but the most common is age. As we age, the vitreous (the gel-like fluid that fills the eye) slowly starts to shrink. This process creates small particles of solidified or hardened gel that float around through the fluid. Eventually, these particles may settle at the bottom of the eye.
Floaters in vision can also be caused by having blood in your eye, which is often linked to diabetes. If you have a condition called diabetic retinopathy, then blood from your retina can get into the eye’s gel. This can create dark spots and streaks and be perceived as floaters. Learn more about diabetic eye health here.
There are times when your eye can become swollen or inflamed and this can cause floaters, as well. This is often not worrisome, but it could be caused by an eye condition called uveitis and should be monitored.
How are eye floaters diagnosed?
Even if you are not experiencing floaters, regular eye exams with an optometrist are an important part of your eye health. If you do begin to experience them, make an appointment with your eye doctor.
During your eye exam, your eye doctor will dilate your eyes so that they can have a clear view at the inside of your eye. This allows your provider to see any floaters you may have and check on the health of your retina. An important part of this exam is to ensure that your retina is not damaged, detached, or torn.
Your eye doctor may recommend more frequent eye exams if you develop new floaters as a precaution and preventive care step. Ensuring you keep regular exams can prevent a more serious eye condition in the future.
How are eye floaters treated?
Treatment for eye floaters is often not necessary. Although floaters in your vision can be frustrating or bothersome, they are typically harmless. A treatment plan, in most cases, will simply include more regular eye exams to monitor your eye health.
If your eye floaters are severe, they can be surgically removed, but the procedure carries a lot of risk. If they are impacting the way you are able to see, your doctor may recommend a procedure (a vitrectomy) to remove them.
A vitrectomy involves making incisions in the eye to remove the solidified vitreous and then replacing the lost volume with a solution similar to the gel. Unfortunately, the procedure does carry the risk of damaging eyesight, can cause a retinal tear or detachment, and may not be able to remove all of the floaters from your vision. Laser treatment can also be used to break up groups of floaters, but that procedure also carries risk.
Eye floaters are a normal part of our eyes aging and they often become less noticeable as time goes by. It is important to discuss your options with your Norfolk or Virginia Beach eye care or optometry professional to determine the appropriate treatment path for you.
If you have begun experiencing eye floaters or to learn more about your eye health, schedule a vision check-up with a Dr. Gilbert eye doctor in Virginia Beach or Norfolk by calling us at 757-425-0200 / 757-622-0200.