Eye floaters are spots, strings, flecks, or specks that appear like floating material in the field of vision. Some people describe them as blobs, cobwebs, or O-shaped or C-shaped spots. They appear to drift or move slowly around the field of vision. Eye floaters are typically not dangerous, but in some cases, they may be signs of a serious problem. Floaters appear when tiny areas of the gelatinous material (known as vitreous) in the back of the eye break loose. These tiny pieces cast shadows on the retina that appear as floaters. Vitreous syneresis describes a process that occurs with aging in which the vitreous gel naturally undergoes some liquefaction, resulting in small pockets of more liquid vitreous within the firmer gel. The boundary between these liquid pockets and the gel may be perceived as an eye floater.
Floaters cannot be seen in darkness and tend to be most obvious when looking at a light background. Occasional floaters are usually harmless, but seeing many floaters at once, especially if you also see flashes of light, is cause to seek immediate care from an eye specialist.
Other causes of eye floaters
- Acute Retinal Necrosis
- Asteroid Hyalosis
- CMV Retinitis
- Eye Injury or Trauma
- Eye Laser Therapy
- Eye Surgery
- Inflammation of the Eye
- Posterior Vitreous Detachment
- Retinal Tear
- Vitreous Syneresis
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Causes of Eye Floaters
Eye Problems and Diabetes
Diabetes and eye problems are generally caused by high blood sugar levels over an extended period of time. Types of eye problems in a person with diabetes include glaucoma, cataracts, and retinopathy. Examples of symptoms include blurred vision, headaches, eye aches, pain, halos around lights, loss of vision, watering eyes. Treatment for eye problems in people with diabetes depend on the type of eye problem. Prevention of eye problems include reducing blood pressure, cholesterol levels, quitting smoking, and maintaining proper blood glucose levels.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, makes it difficult to focus on objects that are far away. The condition runs in families and occurs because light focuses in front of the retina, instead of directly on it. Headaches, eye strain, and fatigue are symptoms of myopia. The condition is diagnosed by having an eye exam and can be treated by wearing glasses or contact lenses or by having refractive surgery.
Ocular Melanoma (Intraocular Melanoma or Uveal Melanoma)
Ocular melanoma is cancer that begins in the eye tissue. Risk factors include being Caucasian, older age, having light eyes and fair skin. Ocular melanoma symptoms and signs include blurry vision and a dark spot on the iris. Treatment may involve surgery, thermotherapy, photocoagulation, radiation therapy, and watchful waiting.
Retinal detachment is the separation of the retina from its attachments to the underlying eye tissue. Symptoms of retinal detachment include flashing lights and floaters. Highly nearsighted young adults and those who've had cataract surgery are at higher risk for retinal detachment.
Sarcoidosis, a disease resulting from chronic inflammation, causes small lumps (granulomas) to develop in a great range of body tissues and can appear in almost any body organ. However, sarcoidosis most often starts in the lungs or lymph nodes.
Syphilis in Women
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a spiral-shaped type of bacteria known as a spirochete. There are three stages of syphilis with distinct symptoms. During first stage of syphilis, a painless ulcer known as a chancre forms. Irreversible organ damage can occur during the late stage of syphilis. Special blood tests are used to diagnose syphilis. Syphilis infection is treated with penicillin. Condom use can only prevent syphilis if the infectious chancre is located in a body area protected by a condom. Potential complications of syphilis in women include: blindness, dementia, aortic aneurysm, deafness stroke, and other complications related to spread of the infection to the brain.
Toxoplasmosis (toxo) is a parasitic infection that causes flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches and pains that may last from a few days to several weeks. Toxoplasmosis can be contracted by touching the hands to the mouth after gardening, cleaning a cat's litter box, or anything that came into contact with cat feces. Toxoplasmosis can also be contracted by eating raw or partly cooked meat, especially pork or lamb, or touching the hands to the mouth after contact with raw or undercooked meat.
Mycobacterium tuberculosis is the bacterium that causes tuberculosis (TB). Symptoms and signs of TB include bloody sputum, fever, cough, weight loss, and chest pain. Treatment depends upon the type of TB infection.
Uveitis is inflammation of the eye. Symptoms include blurred vision, eye pain, eye redness, photophobia, and floaters. Treatment may involve prescription eyedrops, antibiotics, and wearing dark glasses.
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