It happens to everyone at some point. You're reading or driving or watching television and suddenly something floats into your field of vision. You think it's a speck of dirt, but no matter how much you rub your eye, the speck doesn't go away. That's because it's a special type of eye debris called a floater. While floaters are harmless, they can be annoying. Here are a few treatment options for dealing with this issue.
What are Floaters?
Floaters are clumps of cells or specks of protein that get caught in the vitreous fluid in the eye. This is a gel-like substance found at the back two-thirds of the eyeball that helps direct light into the eyes and send images to the brain for interpretation. Debris caught in the solution casts a shadow onto the retina, and this shadow is actually what you're looking at when you see floaters.
The primary cause of floaters is age. As a person gets older, the vitreous solution decreases, becomes stringy, and develops defects. This leads to spots and threads floating about in the eye. Floaters can also be caused by mechanical damage such as retinal tears, retinal detachments, and damage to the vitreous membrane. Diseases such as cystoid macular edema, asteroid hyalosis, and general eye infections may also cause a person to develop floaters.
In some cases, floaters may actually be the result of debris in the tear film, which causes similar visual effect as floaters even though they are not the same thing.
Dealing with Floaters
Unfortunately, there is no safe cure for floaters. The best thing you can do is try to prevent them from developing by taking care of your eyes. Be certain to eat foods that promote good eye health such as carrots, eggs, and salmon. Drink plenty of water to keep eyes hydrated. Regular exercise can keep ocular pressure at a healthy level, and taking care of diseases like diabetes and heart disease can minimize associated damage to the eyes.
Getting a lot of floaters in a short period time may indicate disease of or damage to the eye. It's essential that you see an ophthalmologist right away to diagnose a potential problem. For instance, people with uveitis typically develop quite a few floaters due to the flood and accumulation of white blood cells in the vitreous (among other symptoms). If the floaters are caused by disease, treating the problem may make them go away.
Floaters caused by aging or that are untreatable can be dealt with in a few different ways. These bits of protein and cells are like snow in a snowglobe. Moving the eyes around will cause them to float away out of your field of vision. Whenever a floater interferes with your vision, move your eyes up and down a few times to shake things up and clear the floaters away so you can see more clearly.
Over time, floaters actually shrink in size, possibly due to the body reabsorbing some of the material. Additionally, your brain adapts to the sight of the floaters and eventually begins ignoring them in the same way it ignores your nose even though it's directly in your eyes' line of sight. You can speed up the adaptation process by making a concerted effort to ignore the floaters whenever you notice them.
If the floaters become particularly problematic, there are a couple of surgical options for eliminating them. One option is to use a laser to break up the debris into smaller pieces, which will make them less noticeable. The other option is to have a vitrectomy, which involves draining the vitreous fluid and refilling the eyes with a saline solution.
However, these two options can do more harm than good. If the laser is not aimed correctly, it can damage the retina. A vitrectomy may cause retinal tears and bleeding among other issues.
For the most part, floaters are not harmful. If you find them particularly bothersome, talk to an ophthalmologist about other options for managing the problem. Visit http://www.drgrantmdretinalspecialist.com to learn more about eye care.