What's Behind Those Floaters?

Specks, strings, and cobwebs: Is it normal to see fuzzy objects like these drifting about in your field of vision? Eye floaters occur more often with age, but are they something you should be concerned about? 

Dr. Sean Stevens and Dr. Tiffany Brawner of ReVision Optix in Simpsonville and Greenville, South Carolina, explain what’s behind those floaters so you can gain a better understanding of these elusive shapes in your eyes. 

Why am I seeing floaters?

Most people have seen floaters on occasion – those small shapes that dart out of sight when you try to look directly at them. Why are they there and why can’t you focus on them? Many times, floaters are the result of the natural aging process. 

Your eyes contain a gel-like vitreous substance that begins to liquify as you get older. When the vitreous partially liquifies, it begins to pull away from the surface of your eyeball. Tiny, microscopic protein fibers in this fluid clump together and cast shadows on your retina – the part of your eye that focuses light. 

The floaters you “see” are not the floaters themselves, but shadows from the clumped up, stringy protein fibers. They may appear as spots, fuzzy threads, or knobby shapes that float around in your line of sight, and you are unable to focus on them. Floaters are often more noticeable when you look at something bright, such as a white computer screen or a light blue sky.

Common causes of floaters

In addition to the natural aging process, you might also experience eye floaters as a result of:

You’re also at risk of seeing eye floaters if you’re over 50 years old and are nearsighted.

Can you get rid of floaters?

For the most part, you can simply ignore the floaters until they eventually fade away on their own. If they don’t disappear, your brain adapts to seeing them so you no longer notice them as prominently. 

If floaters are impairing your vision or the underlying cause is a concern, it’s possible to remove floaters with an invasive surgery called a vitrectomy. Even after surgery, new floaters can form over time, so a vitrectomy is typically only a solution if floaters are severe. 

Preventing floaters from forming is your best bet. Drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet are both essential elements of good eye health. Some vitamins and proteins found in healthy foods can help prevent vision problems and reduce your risk of developing eye disorders later in life. 

When floaters are cause for concern

While most floaters are not a reason to be alarmed, there are a few instances when you should seek medical care as soon as possible, including:

It’s best not to wait until floaters become a problem, which is why annual or biannual comprehensive eye exams are so important. Your optometrist at ReVision Optix evaluates your overall eye health during routine exams and looks for the earliest signs and symptoms of floaters and more complicated vision issues. 

To schedule an exam for every member of your family, give us a call, or request an appointment online at your earliest convenience.

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