SYMPTOMS OF FLOATERS
Some people start seeing floaters as early as childhood, while others don’t ever get them. Floaters can vary a great deal in appearance, but usually resemble gray or black dots, strands or knots, cobwebs, squiggly lines, or appear semi-transparent.
Once they appear, floaters will not usually go away. However, they may decrease in frequency, size, and opacity, making them less noticeable.
WHAT CAUSES FLOATERS?
As you get older, the vitreous humor (the thick, transparent substance that fills the center of your eye) undergoes changes. The vitreous humor is full of fine collagen fibers, and as they shrink and become more shred-like, light will hit the eye differently, causing floaters to appear.
More rarely, floaters can appear after eye surgery, especially cataract surgery, and can also occur after an eye injury. However, while the most common causes of floaters are benign, floaters are sometimes caused by (and an early warning sign of) more severe disorders, including:
- Retinal detachment or tearing
- Vitreous bleeding
- Eye tumors
- Retinal or vitreous inflammation due to viral or fungal infection
WHEN SHOULD YOU VISIT AN EYE DOCTOR FOR FLOATERS?
Though the appearance of floaters is usually nothing to worry about, you should make an appointment with your ophthalmologist as soon as possible if you’ve never had floaters and you suddenly start noticing them. Likewise, if you notice a sudden increase in the size or frequency of the floaters in your field of vision, you should also make an appointment.
If floaters start to worsen, you see flashes of light, or you experience vision loss, make an appointment immediately, as this could indicate that you have a torn or detached retina. Also, pay attention to floaters after eye surgery or trauma to the eye. If you see a notable increase and experience pain in the affected eye, call your ophthalmologist.
HOW ARE FLOATERS TREATED?
Strictly speaking, your ophthalmologist won’t treat your floaters. Rather, the issue that’s causing the floaters will be addressed. These treatments vary a great deal, depending on the cause of the problem, but they all have one thing in common. If caught early, treatment will be a lot easier, less invasive, and more effective. Once your eye doctor has treated the underlying cause of your floaters, they will decrease in both frequency and visibility.