Occasionally dark spots or strands appear to float around in the field of vision – these are known as ‘floaters’ in the eyes. As the eye moves, they appear to move with it, drifting to a stop when the focus is no longer on them.
Eye floaters are caused by the clumping of tiny fibres within the vitreous fluid of the eye. These fibrous masses cast small shadows on the retina, which are observed as dark spots in the vision.
Common causes include the ageing process, migraines, myopia, medication and eye surgery or damage. Vision distortion may appear in the form of floaters or flashes.
Eye flashes are less common; however, they can sometimes be a sign of retinal detachment. Flashes of light that look like fireworks, lighting or twinkling lights in front of the eye may be caused by a disruption of the vitreous gel at the back of the eye, or a retinal tear or detachment. If these are seen, especially in conjunction with floaters, urgent medical attention is required to prevent further damage or loss of vision.
If the eye flashes are shimmering or flickering, in a zig-zag type of pattern, they can be due to an ocular migraine which may or may not be accompanied by a headache and will often cease, naturally, within half an hour.
In most cases, floaters are harmless and will fade or go away on their own, too. If, however, they start to obstruct the vision, an optometrist may recommend a vitrectomy. This is where the debris is removed from the eye, surgically, along with the surrounding vitreous gel. The gel is replaced with a temporary solution until the eye regenerates and repairs.
Laser therapy is another possible treatment for floaters that have become difficult to live with. This aims to break up the fibres and reduce their effect on the eyesight.
Regular eye exams, eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water all help to keep the eyesight healthy and clear. Wearing eye protection for sports and physical activity, as well as good sunglasses and special glasses for screen work, also helps to keep the eyes in good condition and avoid vision problems.
If you are experiencing floaters in your eyes, pop in to Insight Optometrists for a thorough eye check today.
- Eye Floaters – FAQ
Dr André Horak, general ophthalmologist, cataract and vitreoretinal surgeon, Vision Eye Institute Mackay.
- How to Get Rid of Eye Floaters
Ann Marie Griff, OD