Ever had that experience when all of a sudden you see a speck, thread, or cobweb-like image that drifts across your eye at any given time? These things are what you call eye floaters or flashes. It is quite a common occurrence among people and most of these things that come across an individual’s line of vision are harmless, although there will be times when they mean something else, something more serious.
So what are these things really? They are usually small clusters of cells or flecks of protein that have become lodged somewhere in the vitreous humor, which is what fills two-thirds of a human eyeball and is a clear gel that supports the eye. The vitreous humor, which is close in appearance to a uncooked egg white, is responsible for providing a pathway for receiving light that goes inside the eye through the lens. It is also connected to the retina, which is a layer of light-sensitive cells that is located at the back of the eyeball. The retina then captures the images and delivers them to the brain through the optic nerve for the brain to process.
Now the interesting fact about eye floaters is that what you see in your field of vision is not the actual floater, but is actually the shadow that was cast in the retina. Floaters stay within your line of sight and do not move. When you try to look at them directly, you will notice that they appear as if they are zooming away or drift away from you when you stop moving your eyes.
Why do floaters appear?
The vitreous humor slowly shrinks when people get older. As a result, the vitreous becomes weak and stringy, which produces the shadows on the retina and causes floaters. It is estimated that around a quarter of people will develop floaters caused by vitreous shrinkage when they reach their 60s. The number increases to two-thirds when they reach 80 years of age. If you are over 60 years old or know somebody who is, make sure you consult with an Arizona eye care specialist for medical advice.
In general, people who are at risk of developing floaters belong to or match the following criteria:
History of cataract surgery
Previous eye injury
People usually don’t mind floaters in their eyes, but some people report that it affects their vision and even hinders them from reading properly. As a warning sign, floaters signify an eye problem, most especially when they start to appear in large numbers or more frequently than normal. They can be a symptom of retinal tear or detachment, especially when they are accompanied with flashes of light. If this occurs, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with an Arizona eye doctor for an eye exam.