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What Causes Eye Floaters?

What are those annoying little squiggles that you see when you look into the light? Is it a piece of lint in your eye? Nope! It’s an eye floater.

What are eye floaters?

Eye floaters are small, moving spots that appear in your field of vision. They can appear in different shapes such as black or gray dots, rings, cobwebs, threadlike strands or squiggly lines. Floaters may not be noticeable unless you are looking at something bright or light in color. Although usually benign, floaters can be bothersome or cast a slight shadow over your vision.

What causes eye floaters?

The back of your eye is filled with a gel-like liquid called vitreous humor. As you get older, countless flecks of protein, called collagen, shrink, become more shred-like and collect in the back of the eye. Levels of vitreous humor decrease in size over the years and eventually will not fill the space behind the eye any longer. As the vitreous gel pulls away from the back of the eye, the flecks of collagen float freely and are seen as floaters.

Are some floaters harmful?

There are some situations that you may want to call your eye doctor concerning floaters. You may need to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist if you notice:

  • A sudden increase in eye floaters
  • Floaters are accompanied by flashes of light
  • Any changes in peripheral vision
  • Eye pain

Although it is rare, these symptoms could be indicative of a retinal detachment, retinal tear, vitreous hemorrhage, eye tumor or bleeding within the eye. These conditions could result in permanent vision loss.

What to do when eye floaters occur

Eye floaters can be distracting, so if you are bothered by them, try this: move to a location that has lower light, and look up and down several times to shift the vitreous gel in your eyes. This is more effective than looking from side to side.

If you have multiple floaters that are affecting your vision, you can talk to your eye doctor about a procedure called vitrectomy. This procedure involves removing the vitreous humor and collagen and replacing it with a saline solution. Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor if floaters are interfering with your vison. Even if it is just to get temporary relief, it is worth a phone call (Source: Web MD).