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What are Eye Floaters?

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Have you ever had a gray or black string appear in your line of vision that moves when you shift the direction of your eyes? These are called eye floaters. For some people, they may see tiny threads, while other people see floaters that look like spots.

When you try to focus your vision on them, they move away from your visual field. The National Eye Institute noted that eye floaters are the most noticeable when people are looking at a bright object, such as a blue sky or a white wall.

So what causes eye floaters? Inside the eye is a gel-like substance called the vitreous. When it shrinks, the vitreous appears “stringy,” and casts shadows causing the eye floaters, according to the National Eye Institute.

This change to the vitreous is age-related. MedlinePlus noted that in many cases of eye floaters, it is nothing to be concerned about.

But there are cases where the presence of eye floaters signals that there is more serious eye condition. For example, a vitreous hemorrhage, in which bleeding occurs in the vitreous, can result in eye floaters.

Inflammation of the uvea in the back of the eye, called posterior uveitis, can also produce eye floaters. Another serious cause of eye floaters is a torn retina.

The MayoClinic.com explained that a torn retina may occur when the vitreous is sagging and pulls on the retina, causing it to tear. If a torn retina is not treated, it can result in a retinal detachment. Not treating a retinal detachment may cause you to lose vision in that eye permanently.

So what should you do if you have eye floaters? The National Eye Institute stated that in cases where the eye floaters just cause annoyance, there is no recommended treatment.

If the number of eye floaters impairs your vision, a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy may be done. In a vitrectomy, the surgeon removes vitreous and the eye floaters, replacing it with a salt solution. Complications are possible with this surgery, including cataracts, retinal detachment and retinal tears.

Another treatment option for eye floaters that impair vision is using a laser, which dissolves the eye floaters.

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EmpowHER Guest

A minor correction: The use of the YAG laser on eye floaters doesn't dissolve, them, but vaporizes and ablates the material. Most retina specialists are quite reluctant to perform the surgical vitrectomy due to its risk profile. The laser procedure, although less efficient, is also non-invasive and lower risk. There is a very extensive internet resource on eye floaters: VitreousFloaterSolutions.com
-Dr. Johnson

February 9, 2012 - 4:20pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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