Have you ever been looking up at the sky on a bright day, and noticed some string-like or dot-like phantasms “floating” across your vision? Then, the second you try to look at them – they fly away! Don’t be alarmed, you (probably) aren’t crazy – just about everyone has “eye floaters” to some degree. They are usually only noticed when they increase in number or when you look at a bright area.
Specks in the Eye
Eye floaters are a caused by a simple gel-like substance that is vital to your ability to see: the vitreous humor. The vitreous humor is made up of mostly water, as well as collagen and a variety of chemicals. It is responsible for keeping the retina in place and giving the eye it’s roundness. The fluid of the vitreous humor doesn’t get replenished or cycled through – it remains stagnant. This means that if things like cells and clumps of collagen find their way in, they stay there unless surgery is performed on the eye.
These “vitreous invaders” are what the floaters are. As they float through the vitreous humor, they cast shadows onto the retina. That’s why they become more apparent when staring at something bright. The reason that they seem to be impossible to look at directly is the same reason they tend to drift around your vision – because they are in a fluid and they move with your eye.
Signs of Danger
So floaters are annoying, but they aren’t dangerous themselves. As was said earlier, just about everyone experiences them, and they naturally become more apparent with age. This is due to vitreous humor shrinking and dissolving to become more liquid. However, a sharp increase of floaters accompanied with abrupt flashes of light can signal a serious condition called “vitreous detachment”.
As the name suggests, vitreous detachment means that vitreous humor is detaching from the retina. When this happens, it runs the risk of tearing a hole in the retina and causing retinal detachment, which is even more serious and constitutes as a medical emergency. If you experience flashes or an increase of floaters, contact your local eyecare professional immediately. If you are near Johnston, Rhode Island area, Dr. Diamante can run an eye exam and determine if a procedure called a vitrectomy – where a surgeon replaces the vitreous humor with a salt solution is necessary.
If you experience an annoying amount of floaters, and it is not due to vitreous detachment, Dr. Diamante also offers a procedure called laser vitreolysis. This operation uses a highly advanced laser to “zap” away particularly large floaters. Contact us today and schedule a consultation to find out if you’re eligible!