What Are Floater?

Have you ever noticed gnats, strands or cobwebs in your vision?  You are certain that they are there. Yet when you try to reach out and grasp them you end up grasping air. When you shift your gaze to the right the gnats, strands or cobwebs also trail to the right. This effect is most prominent in a brightly lit room while looking at a white wall. No, you are not hallucinating. What you are seeing most likely are vitreous floaters.


Your eye is kept round and firm by your aqueous humor, in front of your lens, and your vitreous humor, behind your lens.  With time the vitreous humor can change from a gel-like substance to a more liquid state. Commonly with this change, you will notice strands of vitreous floating in your vision. Another age-related change happens when this vitreous contracts and shrinks. This causes the vitreous to pull away from the retina. When this happens you may see a ring-shaped floater right in the center of your vision. This too is often benign. But in some people, the separation of the vitreous from the retina, known as Posterior Vitreous Detachment, can lead to more serious conditions.


An onset of new floaters can mean something more serious as well.  Floaters can signify the formation of a hole or tear in the retina. If caught in time, a retina specialist like Doctor Tafoya can use a laser to seal the area off right in the office. If the floaters are in combination with flashes of light or a veil over your vision, it may be a retinal detachment. The sooner you see a retina specialist the great chance you have for a positive outcome. Depending on the severity and location, Doctor Tafoya may recommend cryotherapy (freezing of the area) or surgical repair.


There are many other reasons for floaters. If you have been hit in the eye or have been involved in a car accident, you may develop floaters. People who have diabetes can have bleeds in their vitreous which look like floaters. Often times these vitreous hemorrhages will require surgical intervention.  People that are very near-sighted and people that have had previous eye surgery are more prone to develop floaters.


There is no proved medicine, herb, or laser to get rid of floaters.  Some retina specialists remove the vitreous (vitrectomy) in extreme cases of floaters. As with any surgery there are risks. One would have to weigh the benefits and the risks before making such an important decision.


So as you can see, if you experience floaters you should not assume that they are nothing. Get your eyes dilated. Sooner is better than later.  Doctor Tafoya likes to see people with new floaters within 2 days of the time they call our office.  Consider seeing a retina specialist. The advantage to this is IF your floaters evolve to something that requires laser, cryo or surgery you will have established a relationship with a surgeon that you trust.

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