To some extent, we all experience the odd sensation of a strange little shape floating around in our vision. There’s nothing in our eye that shouldn’t be. So what gives?
There’s probably no reason to panic. Floaters come in any number of shapes, and are mostly a normal part of getting older.
More Information About Flashes & Floaters
What Am I Looking At?
When we’re born, the inside of our eyeballs (the vitreous) is made of a gel like substance. As we age, the vitreous liquefies and dissolves. Floaters are usually just little pieces of undissolved vitreous that have broken off and are now floating around. This, for the most part, is perfectly normal and nothing to worry about.
When light enters your retina, your eyes send a message to your brain, interpreting the light as some kind of image. But sometimes if your retina is jerked or touched, it sends a similar message to your brain which is interpreted as a flash of light.
You might also experience flashes when a blow to the head shakes the vitreous of your eye. This is the kind of flash people talk about when they mention “seeing stars.”
When Should I Be Concerned?
Occasional floaters are normal. But if you’re suddenly experiencing them more frequently or in conjunction with flashes, they could be an indication of a serious problem. If the influx of flashes and floaters comes after a recent head injury or eye surgery, seek medical help immediately.
For the most part, floaters don’t require treatment. However, if they’re really starting to bother you or obstruct your vision, there are treatments available.
Although floaters are benign, they can start to cause problems when they seriously impede the patient’s ability to see. At this point, your doctor may recommend a procedure called a vitrectomy. This surgery removes the vitreous from the inside of your eye, replacing it with salt water. Since floaters are made from undissolved pieces of vitreous, this should remove floaters entirely.
Complications are possible but very rare. This surgery can result in retinal detachment, retinal tears, or cataracts. We’ll talk about all the risks and rewards associated with a Vitrectomy before referring you to an ophthalmologist.
Floaters can also be removed with a special kind of laser treatment. Your ophthalmologist shines a laser into your eye, targeting the floaters. Upon impact, the floaters either break up completely, or become so small, they are no longer an impediment to your vision. This treatment delays, or sometimes even eliminates the need for surgery.
Which Treatment is Right For You?
If your floaters are causing you significant difficulties, come see us. We’ll go over your treatment options with you.