What are floaters?
Floaters are tiny segments of vitreous humour (the gel-like substance in your inner eye), that have broken loose inside your eye. They generally appear as cloudy or semi-opaque cobweb-like threads, flecks or spots in your field of vision.
Floaters are generally noticeable when looking at a plain surface such as the sky, a light coloured wall or a computer screen. They often look as though they are floating through the air and move as we blink or change our viewing direction.
Floaters can look like:
- Spots (clumpy)
- Clear bubbles
- Threads (stringy)
Am I at risk of developing floaters?
Anyone can develop floaters or spots but they usually increase with age. Generally, floaters are evident for a short period of time at irregular intervals.
More of a nuisance than anything, floaters are quite common and not usually a cause for alarm. In some instances, floaters can indicate retinal detachment or retinal tears. Should you experience a sudden increase or “shower” of floaters or spots on their own or accompanied by light flashes, we recommend you see an optometrist immediately.
What causes floaters?
When we are young, the vitreous humour, a transparent gel, fi lls the space between the lens and retina of the eye. As we age, this substance begins to breakdown and it’s at this stage that tiny segments (clumps) of the vitreous humour break loose and begin to float within the thinning substance, causing floaters.
In some cases, floaters can also be caused by damage to the eye.
Floaters may be detected during a regular eye examination and your Health Partners optometrist may even identify floaters before you see them yourself. If your optometrist is concerned about the extent and severity of your floaters, they will endeavour to determine the cause of the floaters, as this may indicate a more serious problem.
Living with floaters
Once developed, floaters will not go away: however, there are ways of dealing with them. As floaters do exactly what their name suggests — they float — moving your eyes up and down or from side to side can help move them out of your field of vision. As floaters seem to occur more frequently when outside, we recommend wearing sunglasses regularly. Not only will sunglasses make floaters less noticeable, they will also protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.