What are “Floaters?”
Floaters” are a very common symptom patients have. Floaters are something a person perceives in their vision that looks like a grey, black, or clear spot, shadow, string, or cobweb-like appearance. There are a few different types of floaters.
The main cause of floaters are from a gradual breakdown of the jelly (vitreous) that fills the eye. When this jelly breaks down it forms water pockets. If a water pocket goes in front of the central vision a person will notice the shadow it casts on the back of the eye where the light receptors are located. This shadow is the floater.
Since the floater is inside of the eye, when a person notices it and tries to look towards it, the floater will move with the eye and thus it moves away, so it is very difficult to directly view floaters.
These types of floaters are often very annoying for patients because they can obscure vision and make it seem like something is there (like a gnat flying around), but from a health standpoint they are not a problem.
Other causes of floaters may not be as safe as the aforementioned. The bad types of floaters can come from problems with the retina (where the light receptors are in the back of the eye). These problems can include holes, tears, detachments, inflammation, or even tumors in the back of the eye. This is why it is important to have an eye exam right away if a person has floaters for the first time or new floaters that weren’t there before. Patients with these problems often have other symptoms that coincide with floaters like flashes of light, streaks of light, a curtain of darkness or blurriness coming across their vision, or a loss of vision.
Treatment for Floaters
The “normal” causes of floaters where it is from the jelly forming water pockets has no treatment. Although floaters are very annoying at first, what happens is over time the brain learns to ignore them. Most people will still notice them in bright settings or looking at white backgrounds, because this allows the shadow casted to be more prominent.
Floaters also settle to the bottom of the jelly over time, where they will not impact the line of sight. The other causes of floaters’ treatment depends on what the underlying cause.
The most important part of the management of floaters is determining the cause of them. A thorough eye exam from an eye doctor (like the optometrists at Gilbert Eyecare) is necessary to determine reason behind the floaters.
How is it Treated?
DES has many treatment options. Baseline treatment includes using artificial tears and warm compresses. Artificial tears are basically good quality tears that can be used since the tears in patients with DES are of poor quality. They help lubricate the eyes and help relieve symptoms. Using artificial tears is like using lotion on dry skin; it may take multiple applications but it will help. Warm compresses are used because in DES, the oil glands often get clogged. When they are clogged, they do not secrete part of the tear film. Applying heat breaks up the oil and allows it to be secreted.
If symptoms are still persistent with baseline treatment there are still many other options for managing DES. Prescription eye drops, eyelid scrubs, oral medications, specialty contact lenses, amniotic membranes, tear duct plugs, and often a combination of two or more of the aforementioned are necessary.