Eye floaters can appear as black or dark-colored specks or strings that drift around the vitreous humor of the eye. They typically manifest as spots in your vision.
The vitreous humor refers to gelatinous fluid inside your eye that gives it its spherical shape. This tissue is composed of mostly water and a protein called collagen.
In order for us to see, the eye must receive light from the external environment and send visual signals to the brain for processing. For this purpose, the vitreous humor should ideally be transparent.
However, as we age, the vitreous humor liquefies and loses its shape. Collagen fibers within the vitreous humor clump together and become stringy. These stringy fibers can cast tiny shadows on the retina as light passes through the eye, and become apparent as dark specks in your vision. These shadows are what we call floaters.
If you notice the onset of eye floaters, it’s recommended that you consult an eye care provider to make sure they’re not a symptom of something more dangerous. Seeing light flashes or losing your peripheral vision are symptoms of an eye health emergency.
Eye Floater Symptoms
Stray collagen fibers casting shadows on the retina may manifest as the following symptoms:
Shapes in your vision. These shapes may appear as dark or transparent specks.
Moving spots in the eye. When you try to look at the specks in your eyes, they may move quickly out of your visual field.
When to See Your Local Doctor First - Eye 'Urgencies'
As the vitreous humor liquefies and shrinks, it can tug at the connective fibers on the surface of the retina. Sometimes, this can uproot an entire section of connective fibers away from the retina. This is called a vitreous detachment, and it's actually not harmful in itself. Nevertheless, it may cause a bothersome increase in eye floaters.
The danger comes if the uprooted connective fibers pull on the retinal surface and cause a retinal tear. Any retinal tear, no matter the size, will need to be treated, because it increases the risk of retinal detachment.
A break in the surface of the retina increases the risk of fluid from the vitreous humor seeping into the tear and accumulating in the space between the retina and the wall of the eye, causing the retina to detach from the eye wall.
A retinal detachment is a medical emergency. This occurs when the surface of the retina peels away from the supporting tissue of the eye. If the retinal surface is separated from the wall of the eye, it is cut off from its oxygen and blood supply. If left untreated, the detached retinal cells could die, resulting in permanent vision loss in the affected eye.
It is recommended that you contact an eye doctor immediately if you notice any of the following:
Many eye floaters in a short span of time.
Sudden onset of new eye floaters.
All of these symptoms can be caused by a retinal tear, which can threaten your eyesight.
Flashes of light in the eye with the floaters.
Other Causes of Eye Floaters
The natural aging process can cause eye floaters, but they can also be a result of other diseases or health conditions.
Inflammation in the back of the eye, also called posterior uveitis, can cause inflammatory debris to be released into the vitreous humor. This condition may be caused by infection or inflammatory diseases.
Bleeding in the vitreous humor can be caused by diabetes, hypertension, injury, and blocked blood vessels. These blood vessels can turn into floaters.
By now we know that vitreous detachment can cause retinal detachment, resulting in floaters. But retinal detachment itself can also be caused by other things, such as diabetes, eye trauma, macular degeneration, eye tumors, or previous eye surgery.
Eye Surgery and Medication
Certain medications injected into the eye can cause air bubbles. These bubbles can create shadows until they are absorbed by the eye.
Similarly, eye surgeries that add silicone oil bubbles to the eye can also create floaters.
Risk Factors for Eye Floaters
There are certain factors that can increase your risk of floaters. These include:
If you’re experiencing eye floaters, it’s best to talk to an eye floater doctor who can help you determine your best options. Getting Rid of Eye Floaters: Vitreous Floater Solutions
Depending on the cause, many eye floaters are harmless and may even fade over time. In many cases, no treatment is required. However, large and persistent eye floaters can be quite annoying and cause problems with vision.
Eye Floaters Surgery
Traditionally, the only treatment option available for eye floaters was an invasive surgical procedure called a vitrectomy. This procedure involves some or all of the vitreous humor being removed from the eye taking the floaters with it. At the end of the surgery, the vitreous humor is replaced with a saline/electrolyte solution.
Unfortunately, the risks of this surgery outweigh the benefits for many of those suffering from eye floaters. The most common risk, often quoted at 100% is the formation of a lens cataract within 12-18 months after the surgery. Other risks include retinal detachment and serious postoperative infections. In some cases, the surgery even caused more (or different) floaters to appear especially if the vitrectomy is partial - the type where a 'protective' layer of vitreous is intentionally left behind near the natural lens.
Laser Surgery for Eye Floaters
The use of the YAG laser for eye floaters (vitreolysis, or Laser Floater Treatment, LFT) has been around for over 20 years. It is a quiet secret in the field of ophthalmology as it is not taught in training programs, or discussed much in journals and continuing medical education.
For those who are candidates for treatment, it is a VERY attractive option for those whose floaters are not extensive enough to justify invasive surgery and/or those who want to avoid surgery if possible.
In the hands of an experienced practioner, it can be a very effective option without the risks of invasive surgery. This in-office procedure involves a laser beam projected into the eye through the pupil. The laser is precidely focused onto the floaters with microns accuracy breaking them apart or vaporizing the collagen material that makes up the floaters. This causes them to completely disappear or become less of an issue for sufferers.
Complications from eye or cataract surgery
Can You Benefit from Laser Vitreolysis?
In order for your doctor to determine whether or not you’re a good candidate for laser surgery for eye floaters, they will have to consider several factors. These include:
The onset of floaters/how quickly symptoms started
What the floaters look like
Floaters in patients younger than 30-35 years of age will likely be located too close to the retina, which means that they can’t be safely treated with laser vitreolysis. However, patients with eye floaters located farther away from the retina are likely good candidates for the procedure.
Your eye floater doctor will evaluate your eye floaters as far as type, distribution, extent, and location within the eye (especially considering their proximity to the retina and lens. Those with soft borders may be located further from the retina and can typically be treated more successfully. Also, those with larger floaters that appear suddenly (usually associated with a posterior vitreous detachment) can have high success rates.
Laser surgery for eye floaters is essentially pain-free, non-invasive, and should not cause any inflammation afterwards. Before treatment, anesthetic eye drops will be applied along with a special contact lens. Next, your doctor will look through a biomicroscope and deliver the laser to the floaters one laser shot at a time. It is surprisingly well tolerated compared to most any other medical type of procedure, the results should be noticeable after a few hours when the pupil dilation subsides.
During treatment, you may see dark spots falling. These are vaporized proteins converted to microscopic gas bubbles and are actually floating upwards. The treatment itself takes only 30 minutes but can be significantly shorter.
Once the laser treatment is over and the contact lens removed, there will be just a few minutes needed for vision recovery, and a few hours for the pupil/s to contrict again.There are no restrictions in activities afterwards, and no patching of the eye or use of any eye drops.
Where the floaters are located
Eye Floater Doctor
We specialize in the laser treatment of eye floaters. We’re the only practice in the world exclusively treating eye floaters. Despite what you may have heard, eye floaters can be treated and treated effectively. Our very own Dr. James H. Johnson is a pioneer in the use of FDA-approved YAG laser to treat the opacities and densities in the eye.
We believe that eye floaters can be treated:
Do you need help getting rid of those bothersome eye floaters? Contact us today!
with very acceptably low risk.