Should I be concerned about eye floaters?
Q: I have noticed small moving spots in my vision which I think are floaters. I feel like they are getting worse. Should I be concerned?
A: Eye floaters are small spots or specks that drift through your field of vision. They can be very annoying; however, they are common, normal and usually do not affect vision. Most of the time people learn to live with them. They can also improve over time. But, sometimes they may need medical attention.
When should you see a doctor?
As I mentioned above, most of the time, eye floaters are harmless and nothing to be concerned about; however, rarely, they can be a sign of something serious. See a doctor if:
- Eye floaters are worsening, especially if the changes are sudden in onset.
- Eye floaters develop after eye surgery or eye trauma.
- You have eye pain along with eye floaters.
- You experience flashes of light or any vision loss accompanied by eye floaters (This can be a sign of retinal detatchment, retinal tear or bleeding, and requires immediate attention, or can result in permanent vision loss).
What causes eye floaters?
The back of the eye has a jelly-like substance called vitreous humor. It has very fine collagen fibers. As we age, these fibers can shrink and harden. This can cause a change in the light reflection that hits the retina, and causes the symptoms of eye floaters.
Eye floaters can come on at any age, but most commonly between ages 50 and 75, especially in people who are very nearsighted or have had cataract surgery.
Serious (but rare) eye disorders associated with eye floaters include:
- Retinal detachment
- Retinal tear
- Vitreous hemorrhage (bleeding)
- Viral or fungal infections, or auto-immune disease
- Eye tumors
Treatment of eye floaters:
Most eye floaters are benign and do not require treatment. If the floaters are really bothering you, you can try moving them out of your field of vision by moving your eyes up and down or from side to side.
Very rarely, the eye floaters are so numerous that they affect your vision, and a doctor may consider a vitrectomy (surgery where vitreous humor is removed and replaced with saline). This is usually done as a very last resort.
Dr. Chris Prakash is a contributing columnist and author of eParisExtra’s “The Doctor is In” column. He is a medical oncologist at Texas Oncology Paris. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Oncology and Hematology. He lives in Paris, TX with his wife and two children, and can be reached at 903-785-0031 or Sucharu.firstname.lastname@example.org.