Eye floaters, also called myodaeopsia, can be mildly annoying specks in your vision and, on rare occasions, serious visual impairments. These spots, threads, and webs are experienced by most people, and their severity depends on how many floaters are in the eye, and how prevalent they are. Floaters exist in the vitreous humour, which is the clear and colourless fluid that fills the space inside the vitreous chamber of the eye. The vitreous chamber makes up around 80% of the eye, resting between the lens at the front of the eye and the retina at the back. Vitreous humour has the important job of keeping the eye in a spherical shape, as well as keeping the retina in place. Sometimes, however, floaters form in the vitreous humor.
Floaters form in the clear vitreous humor because it begins to develop imperfections. These imperfections build up until the point where they are large enough (though still minute) to be seen, and then remain, in relatively the same spot, in your field of vision. Floaters, for the most part, come with age, although some people are born with them in their eyes. These type of floaters can last their entire lives. Floaters are miniscule particles, but appear much larger in our field of vision. This is because when they are projected onto our retinas, as light enters into the eye, they are added into the overall picture that our retinas interpret from external stimuli. Floaters are common, most people developing some at one time or another in their lives, and they are also benign. Often, they are forgotten about, as people learn to ignore them. Sometimes, however, floaters do break up and go away on their own.
There are some factors as to why some people get floaters more often than others:
- People who are nearsighted have a different consistency to their vitreous fluid, which can cause floaters to build up at a faster rate.
- Older individuals experience more floaters as the vitreous fluid begins to turn from a gel-like consistency into a more liquid-like one.
- Those who are diabetic see more floaters than those who are not because of weak capillaries in the eyes. These capillaries can leak blood, which leads to clots that are projected back onto the retina of the eye. These floaters are unique as they are not made of up vitreous humour build-up.
- Eye trauma can cause floaters in the eye, but these floaters are more likely to disappear gradually over time.
- Vitritis, an inflammation of the vitreous body, can leave people susceptible to different viruses that cause floaters.
- Some medications, including various antibiotics, anxiety medications, and birth control, can cause floaters.
- Cataract surgery, where complications arise, can lead to floaters.
- Stress is also linked to floater build up.
There are many reasons why you might have floaters, but they are incredibly common and almost always benign. They also are easy to get used to, and after a period of time you are most likely not going to notice that they are there, unless you are in bright sunlight. If you have a sudden onset of multiple floaters it is a good idea to see your optometrist as soon as possible, as optometrists are often the first to diagnose a large variety of medical conditions.