You might describe floaters as spots, specks, squiggles, or strands that swim across your vision.  They can be your constant companion or come and go, uninvited, as they please. Referred to as muscae volitantes, Latin for 'flying flies”, if you have them, you know how appropriate the name is. So, what is a floater, and should you be concerned? 


What are floaters?

Most floaters are tiny clumps of collagen or cells that float inside the vitreous, the gelatinous substance that fills the eyeball. Bits of natural debris, they can be present at birth or more commonly form as we, and our vitreous ages.  While it seems we are looking at them, in fact what we see is the floaters shadow being cast on our retina.  That is why they are most visible in a brightly lit environment or when looking at a white surface.


Can floaters be cause for concern?

Long-standing floaters are quite common, but if new floaters appear suddenly, especially if they are accompanied by other symptoms such as flashes of light or loss of vision, seek immediate attention.  Contact your Optometrist, or if unavailable, go to your local emergency room. This may be the first sign of a tear or detachment of the retina and require treatment by a specialist.  Ignoring these symptoms may cause temporary or permanent vision loss.


Should you start seeing floaters, or any other changes in your vision, call your eye doctor and make an appointment. Caution should always be exercised when it comes to your eyes.


An eye exam should be on your yearly calendar to maintain your overall eye health, as well as check your visual acuity. Many eye conditions don't have noticeable symptoms until the damage is done, so verifying with the optometrist that your eyes are healthy with no underlying issues is essential.


Can I get rid of floaters?

Floaters themselves are harmless and don’t need to be treated.  In some cases, when the floaters significantly interfere with the patient's vision, a procedure called Laser Vitreolysis can help make them less noticeable. During this procedure, a laser is passed through the eye to break up the clumps. This technique does not eliminate the floaters, but it can make them less bothersome.


Need to see an optometrist? Book an appointment at IRIS.