Are Floaters in the Eye Dangerous?

Mon, Aug 15, 2022

Are Floaters in the Eye Dangerous?

All About Eye Floaters and When to See a Specialist

Eye floaters can be bothersome and annoying but rarely dangerous. Floaters in the eye are hazardous only if there is a harmful underlying condition or they impair your vision to the extent you are at risk for an accident. It is important to see an ophthalmologist if you have concerns about new or existing floaters.

What Are Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters are small dots, lines, or circles in your vision. They appear to be in front of your eyes, but they are actually within them. Floaters are clumps of fibers in the vitreous of your eye. They cast shadows on the retina, which become visible in your field of vision.

Typical symptoms of floaters include:

  • Small specks, lines, or other shapes moving across your vision
  • Spots that move when your eyes move so that you can’t pin them down by looking at them
  • Spots that become more noticeable against white or bright backgrounds

Flashes are another similar phenomenon. These are lightning-like streaks, bright spots, or bursts of light. While eye floaters and headaches are not typical, flashes often accompany migraines. They, as with floaters, can also occur with normal aging.

What Causes Eye Floaters?

Most floaters are normal and a result of aging. As you get older, the vitreous in the eyes changes. The vitreous is a jelly-like substance in the eye. With age it shrinks and might pull away from the back of the eye. This causes the formation of clumps of fibers that cast shadows on the retina.

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Certain underlying conditions or injuries can also cause floaters. Posterior uveitis is inflammation in the back of the eye that can produce debris that causes spots in the vision. Bleeding in the eye can also cause floaters. Causes of bleeding include diabetes, injuries, blocked blood vessels, and high blood pressure.

You might get floaters as a complication of eye surgery or a medication injected into the vitreous that creates bubbles. Physical trauma to the eye can tear or detach the retina, which is serious. One symptom of a torn retina is the sudden appearance of floaters.

Factors that put you at a greater risk for developing floaters include:

  • Being over the age of 50
  • Being nearsighted
  • Previous cataract surgery with complications
  • Being diabetic, especially with retinopathy
  • Eye trauma

How Long Do Eye Floaters Last?

Many people with floaters in their vision want to know: Do eye floaters go away? If they are a result of the normal aging process, they probably won’t go away completely. They might fade with time, though, as they sink down in the eye and as your brain gets accustomed to them. This process can take a month or up to several months.

When Should I Worry About Eye Floaters?

The sudden appearance of or increase in floaters is cause for concern. This can be a sign of a detached or torn retina. Another sign is a bigger shadow, like a curtain, across the field of vision. Retinal tears can be an emergency. Without prompt treatment, you can lose some or all of your vision.

Treatments for Eye Floaters

Age-related floaters don’t usually require treatment. The least-invasive strategy is to ignore them and let your brain adapt. However, if blurry vision and floaters begin to impede your normal functioning, you can talk to a specialist about treatment options.

An ophthalmologist can use a laser to break up floaters and make them less visible. There are risks to this procedure, and it may or may not improve vision.

Another treatment is a surgery called a vitrectomy to remove the vitreous and replace it with a solution that helps the eye hold its shape. This procedure comes with risks as well. A specialist can help you decide if either treatment is appropriate for your situation.

If your doctor or ophthalmologist finds an underlying cause other than aging, they can help you treat that condition.

North Carolina Specialty Hospital’s ophthalmologists can examine your eyes and help you come up with solutions to bothersome floaters. Contact us today to book an appointment with one of our expert ophthalmologists.

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