Eye floaters

What are floaters?

Eye floaters, medically known as myodesopsia, are floaters that move across your field of vision. They may have different shapes: lines, shadows, dots, and cobwebs among others. It is one of the main reasons that people visit an ophthalmologist.  

Floaters are condensations of the vitreous, which is the gel-like substance in the back of the eye that casts shadows on the retina as light passes through. In floaters, these condensations appear due to dehydration of the vitreous.

Most floaters are harmless and are a normal part of the ageing process of the vitreous.  You should see a specialist if the floaters are appearing more frequently, suddenly, or you are seeing flashes of light.  

What are the symptoms?

Floaters appear in the visual field as stains, dots, or cobwebs. They tend to move around as you move your eyes around and they seem to disappear or be difficult to see when you try to look at them directly. They tend to be seen better when looking at a bright and well-lit surface.

Causes of floaters

The exact cause for eye floaters is unknown, but it is known to be related to the ageing process as well as myopia, nearsightedness.

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) can also cause floaters, and they can also appear after cataract or capsulotomy surgery. They can also appear due to other, more serious eye conditions.  

How can they be prevented?

It is recommended to have your vision tested regularly, especially after the age of 40, to be able to check for floaters that may pose a risk to your vision.  

What is the treatment?

There currently isn’t a treatment to completely get rid of eye floaters, patients have to get used to them. There are however medications that can delay the onset of floaters as well as two other treatments:

  • Vitreolysis: uses laser which vaporises vitreous opacities that makes them less visible or moves them away from your visual field.
  • Vitrectomy: surgery to remove some or all of the vitreous humour from the eye and replace it with a saline solution. This procedure is performed as a last resort as it is a high risk operation.