Eye Floaters: Signs to Watch For & When to Seek Help

when are floaters dangerous

As we get older, our bodies start to change. We don’t bounce back as quickly as we used to, and we might not see or hear as well as we once did. Our bodies and our senses, like seeing and hearing, slowly get a bit weaker. According to the National Institute of Aging, getting older affects our brains and how we see or understand the world around us. Even our eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be, and many of us need glasses to see clearly. A common sign that our eyes are changing because we’re getting older is when we start seeing eye floaters.

What are Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters are small shapes that you might see floating in your vision, kind of like little spots, lines, or webs. You’ll notice them more when you look at something bright and plain, like the sky on a clear day or a white wall. They’re actually tiny bits of stuff inside your eye, in a jelly-like part called the vitreous. As we get older, this jelly starts to get more liquidy and can pull away from the back of the eye. When it does this, it gets a bit stringy, and these strings cast shadows that we see as floaters.

When Treatment for Eye Floaters Becomes Necessary

For the most part, having floaters is nothing to worry about. They’re just a normal thing that happens as we age and that doesn’t really mean there’s anything wrong with your eyes. Sometimes, they show up for other reasons, like if you’re nearsighted, after certain eye surgeries, or if you’ve hurt your eye. Even though they can be annoying, they usually don’t mess with your ability to see and aren’t considered a big deal health-wise.

Sometimes, you might need to see a doctor for eye floaters. They’re usually not a big deal, but in some cases, they could point to something more serious going on with your eyes. Here’s when you should think about getting them checked out:

  • If you suddenly see a lot more floaters than usual.
  • If you start seeing flashes of light.
  • If it seems like you’re losing your side vision.

These signs could mean you have a retinal detachment, which is when the back part of your eye pulls away. This is serious and needs to be looked at right away to stop you from losing your sight.

Eye floaters can also be a clue that there’s another eye problem, like:

  • Uveitis refers to inflammation within the eye, affecting structures like the iris and ciliary body. This condition can cause pain, redness, blurred vision, and light sensitivity alongside floaters.
  • Bleeding in the eye, or vitreous hemorrhage, occurs when blood leaks into the vitreous humor, the gel-like substance filling the eye. This can obscure vision and present as a sudden appearance of floaters.
  • Vitreous detachment is when the vitreous humor, due to aging or other factors, starts to shrink and pull away from the retina. While this is less severe than a retinal detachment, it shares similar symptoms, such as floaters and flashes of light.

Do Glasses Help With Floaters?

Many people wonder if wearing glasses can make eye floaters less noticeable. The simple answer is no, glasses or contacts won’t really help with floaters. This is because floaters come from changes happening inside your eye, in the jelly-like stuff called the vitreous humor. 

Glasses are great for fixing vision issues when your eye shape makes it hard to see things clearly, like if you’re nearsighted or farsighted. But floaters are different. They are little bits floating inside your eye that create shadows on your retina, and fixing your focus with glasses doesn’t get rid of these shadows.

Getting Rid of Eye Floaters: What Are Your Options?

Sometimes, eye floaters do more than just float around in your vision. If they start messing with how well you can see or if they’re a sign of something wrong with your eye, you might need to think about treatment. There are two main ways to tackle serious eye floaters: vitrectomy and laser therapy.

Vitrectomy: Going the Surgical Route

Vitrectomy is a big word for a surgery that takes out the vitreous humor—that’s the gel-like stuff inside your eye where the floaters hang out. The American Society of Retina Specialists says this is something you’d do as an outpatient, meaning you don’t have to stay in the hospital overnight. They use local anesthesia, so you won’t feel a thing during the procedure.

In this surgery, the doctor makes tiny cuts in the white part of your eye and sucks out the vitreous and the floaters. Then, they fill up the space with a saltwater solution that’s a lot like your natural eye gel. This can really help get rid of floaters, but there’s some stuff to watch out for, like bleeding, cataracts, or even a tear in your retina, according to WebMD.

Laser Therapy: The Gentler Choice

If surgery sounds too intense, there’s another option called laser therapy, or laser vitreolysis. This uses laser beams to zap the floaters into smaller pieces or make them less noticeable. Healthline says the laser targets the floaters and breaks them apart.

The Global Retina Institute talks about using a special FDA-approved laser for this. It’s done right in the doctor’s office and doesn’t involve any cutting, making it a safer bet than surgery. But, not everyone’s a good fit for laser therapy. How well it works depends on what your floaters look like and where they are in your eye.

Making the Right Choice for Your Vision

In the end, if eye floaters are really bothering you, it might be worth looking into surgery or laser treatment. But, remember, these options can be a bit tricky and require careful thinking. The most important thing is to talk everything over with your eye doctor. They’ll help you figure out the best way forward, keeping in mind what you need and how to keep your eyes as healthy as possible. It’s all about making sure you’re comfortable with your choice and that it’s good for your eyes. So, here’s hoping for better vision and less trouble from those floaters!

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