Have you ever experienced small specs or thin lines in your field of vision? Those spots, lines, or other shapes you see before your eyes are commonly referred to as “floaters.” In almost all cases floaters, while annoying, are no cause for concern and should not interfere with your sight.
Floaters earn their name by moving around in your eye. They tend to dart away when you try to focus on them. They usually come and go over time and appear most often when you look at something bright.
The onset of floaters usually occurs in individuals 50 years and older and once you get them, they usually don’t go away. Most people who experience floaters state that they notice them less over time.
Floaters come in many different shapes, such as:
- Black or gray dots
- Squiggly lines
- Threadlike strands, which can be knobby and almost see-through
Most floaters are small flecks of a protein called collagen that are part of a gel-like substance in the back of your eye called the vitreous. As we age, these protein fibers that make up the vitreous shrink down and clump together, forming a shadow on our retina – or a floater.
Floaters are more common in those who are nearsighted or have had cataract surgery. It’s rare, but floaters can also result from:
- Eye Disease
- Eye injury
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Eye tumors
Most people ignore floaters and learn to live with them. Only in rare cases do they get bad enough to require treatment. The best way to temporarily remove floaters from your field of vision is to circulate the fluid in your eyes by shifting your eyeballs up and down.
If however you have so many floaters that your vision is compromised your doctor may suggest surgery called a vitrectomy. During this procedure, the vitreous is removed and replaced with a salt solution.
If you only have a few eye floaters that don’t change over time, don’t sweat it, but go to the doctor immediately if you notice:
- A sudden increase in the number of floaters
- Flashes of light
- A loss of side vision
- Changes that come on quickly and get worse over time
- Floaters after eye surgery or eye trauma
- Eye pain
The risk is low, but these symptoms may indicate a tear or a more serious break in your retina. You should treat a possible retinal break or detachment as an emergency. Treatment may save your sight.
To speak to an eye specialist at Jamaica Hospital’s Ophthalmology Center, please call 718-206-5900.