Eye Floaters and What to Do About Them
We’ve all seen them…
Those translucent squiggly lines, specks, or dots floating on our field of vision from time to time?
More commonly referred to as “eye floaters,” most people have come to accept this condition as a mild annoyance. Though some eye floaters are easy to ignore and largely benign, larger, dense floaters may interfere with quality of life.
TYPES OF EYE FLOATERS
- FIBEROUS STRANDS – The most common and harmless form. Caused when collagen breaks down, these thin and linear-shaped visuals tend not to bunch up but drift sparsely across the field of vision. Despite the negative impact dense floaters can have on one’s quality of life, most patients are told to live with the condition unless the severity dramatically increases.
- CLOUD-LIKE – These floaters are caused by the natural aging process. Their shape is less well-defined than fiberous strand floaters. They appear more diffused across the visual field and often in cloud-like shapes.
- WEISS RINGS – These are larger, ring-shaped floaters that form when vitreous tissue surrounding the optic nerve detaches from the back of the eye.
- FLASHES OF LIGHT – While not eye floaters, these flashes occur when the vitreous membrane stimulates the retina during its release. The retina reacts by “flashing” in response. If you are experiencing sudden flashes of light, seek medical attention as soon as possible, as this could be a sign of a retinal detachment.
- DOTS – Caused from a tear in the retina, which can cause blood to leak into the vitreous membrane which can be seen as numerous small dots dashing across the field of vision.
*As retinal tears can easily lead to severe impacts on your vision, it is critical that patients experiencing either flashing or dots in their field of vision contact their eye care physician as soon as possible.
Apart from choosing to simply struggle with the condition throughout life, there are several forms of treatment available regardless of whether the floaters present a mere nuisance or a significant medical issue.
TYPES OF TREATMENT
- VITRECTOMY SURGERY – Typically reserved for more severe cases, the procedure involves making the three openings in the outer layer of the eyeball to remove the central vitreous, which is the gel-like substance inside your eye.
- ADVANTAGES – Typically a quick outpatient procedure.
- DISADVANTAGES – High risk of complications including anterior vitreous detachment, a separation of the gel that fills the eye from theretina, and macular edema, which is a build-up of fluid in the center of the retina. There is also a risk for cataracts, infection, and retinal detachment, which can serve to worsen state of floaters.
- LASER FLOATER REMOVAL– Nanosecond pulses of low-energy laser light evaporate the collagen that forms eye floaters, converting it to a gas that is then harmlessly reabsorbed by the eye.
- ADVANTAGES – An outpatient treatment that is less invasive than vitrectomy surgery; laser treatment has a lower risk of potential complications.
- DISADVANTAGES –Laser Floater Removal may not be the right treatment for all types of floaters. To find out if this treatment is appropriate for your unique case, talk to your doctor.
Determining a course of action ultimately rests with you and your doctor. However, a recent study* by Danish ophthalmologist, Cees van der Windt, found 80% of test patients recorded improved vision after laser floater removal treatment. Additionally, 100% of those same patients recorded sustained improvement over an eight-year follow up period.
If you are looking for a doctor who specializes in treating eye floaters, try our Physician Locator Tool to locate a doctor near you.
Remember, no matter the severity of your condition there are options available.