Floaters

Eye floaters are common and often a harmless symptom of aging


Eye floaters are common and often a harmless symptom of agingAt birth, the vitreous gel is firm. As it ages, the gel gradually liquefies, leading to the development of fluid-filled pockets within it that coalesce and enlarge. This process results in a breakdown of collagen fibers which can cast a shadow on the retina. You notice them as floaters in your vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly.

They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when your eyes stop moving. Floaters are very common and most people experience them in their vision at times.

However, if continued breakdown of the collagen fibers occurs, this can lead to a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). The risk factors for PVD are age-specific from 45 to 65, with a family history of retinal tears or detachments, ocular trauma, previous eye surgery, prior intravitreal injections, and high nearsightedness (>-6.00). While rare, a sudden increase in floaters, possibly accompanied by light flashes or peripheral (side) vision loss, could indicate a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment occurs when any part of the retina, the eye’s light-sensitive tissue, is lifted or pulled from its normal position at the back wall of the eye. A retinal detachment is a serious condition and should always be considered an emergency. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent visual impairment within two or three days or even blindness in the eye.

Those who experience a sudden increase in floaters, flashes of light in peripheral vision, or a loss of peripheral vision should have an eye care professional examine their eyes as soon as possible. While floaters can be bothersome, identifying the underlying cause is imperative to determining the best course of action to manage the condition.