The term, “floaters” refers to a condition in which small spots can be seen in your vision. They are tiny pieces of gelatine or protein that form in the middle part of your eye, known as the vitreous humour.
Floaters are often a result of ageing and can be common in people who have had cataract surgery. If not treated, the condition can sometimes cause permanent blindness.
As you age, the vitreous humour separates from the retina— responsible for sending signals to the brain. This creates small balls that cast shadows, causing the floaters you see in your vision. Over time the retina can tear and detach, requiring immediate treatment to protect your sight.
One of the most recognisable symptoms of floaters are long, thin strands that seem to ‘float' across your field of vision. These can be see-through or look fairly solid. They can also take the form of small shadowy dots. They are painless and you might notice a few in your vision at any one time.
Floaters are most recognisable when you stare at a white surface or background. They can be any shape or size and can occur during the day and at night.
Floaters can affect people at any age. They are more common in older people however.
As you get older, the jelly-like substance in the middle of your eye (your vitreous humour) begins to shrink and become stringier. Sometimes this stringy material can break off and start to float around your eye, causing what's known as a ‘floater'.
Floaters can also be caused by the tearing or detachment of the retina— the light sensitive tissue behind your eye that sends visual information to your brain. A retinal detachment is a serious condition that will require immediate treatment to prevent permanent blindness.
Treatment for floaters is normally not necessary. They are usually harmless and in most cases present no threat to your vision.
Normally your brain will learn to ignore floaters, but larger ones can be distracting and can affect your vision.
YAG Laser treatment can be used to break up floaters and move them towards the edges of your eye.
If floaters are significantly affecting your vision and don't clear up on their own, a type of surgery called a vitrectomy can be carried out. This can be quite invasive, so it is rarely carried out. The procedure involves replacing the gel-like liquid in your eye (known as the vitreous) with saline solution. This can help to eliminate any floaters that you may have.