First thing’s first, what are eye floaters? Well, have you ever seen a small shape floating in your field of vision? This is a floater, and they can appear in many different sizes and shapes. This includes:
- Long, narrow strands
- Larger cloud-like spots
- Shadowy, small dots
- Tiny black dots in eyes
You could have one or two larger floaters, or you may have a lot of smaller ones in your field of vision. They tend to be most noticeable when a person is looking at a background that is lightly coloured, for example, a clear sky or a white wall.
What are the different types of floaters in the eyes?
- Weiss ring floater – A ring-shaped Weiss ring floater is a big and fibrous floater, which is typically situated safely away from the retina and crystalline lens.
- Diffuse floater – This is caused by the natural ageing process. It is a cloud-like floater.
- Fibrous strand floater – The fibrous strand floater is a dense, thin floater, which is typically common in young people. It will appear in the form of string-like cobwebs and multiple dots. It typically occurs due to collagen fibres of the vitreous clumping together.
You may be surprised to learn that floaters can occur without you even realising. This is because a person’s brain continuously changes to any alterations in vision, and so it learns to ignore floaters. For this reason, most floaters don’t impact vision, and they are harmless. However, large floaters in vision can make certain activities difficult, for instance, driving or reading, as they can be very distracting.
What can cause floaters in the eye?
- Retinal tears – By the time you reach 50-years-old, there is a 50/50 chance that your retina will have separated from the vitreous humour. Most people won’t even be aware that this has happened, as it typically doesn’t cause any issues. However, it can result in floaters in eye, and there are different reasons why. One possibility is that when the vitreous humour is still attached to parts of the retina, it tears the retina when it pulls away. This can cause a shower of floaters, as the retinal pigment cells escape. Alternatively, tiny blood vessels in the retina may burst when the vitreous humour pulls away, and they can appear like small, black spots in vision.
- Posterior Vitreous Detachment – This is found in around 75 per cent of people aged over 65-years-old, and floaters are a common symptom of this condition. The outer part of the vitreous humour, which is the cortex, begins to shrink away from the retina when you get older. When the collagen thickens and clumps together, it causes floaters to develop.
- Ageing Process – Your risk of developing floaters increases with age. While young people can develop floaters, they tend to occur in those over the age of 40, and they are most common in people in their 60s and 70s. The reason floaters are more common in older people is that the vitreous humour, which is in the centre of the eyeball, can become softer, and strands of collagen can become visible within it.
- Retinal detachment – This is a rare condition, but it can occur due to a retinal tear, which is why you need the latter to be treated as soon as possible. When there is damage to the retina, the images your brain receives are patchy, hence the appearance of floaters. You may need to hire a personal injury attorney if this has happened due to trauma or an accident.
Some of the lesser-known causes of eye floaters include:
- Short-sightedness (myopia)
- Eye injury
- Inflammation of the eye
- An eye infection
If you experience any floaters, the best thing to do is visit an eye specialist.