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What causes eye floaters?

Blepharitis

What causes eye floaters?

Eye floaters are often described as “spots” on your vision. They may resemble specks, tiny “cobwebs” or thread-like strands floating in your field of vision [1].

Most people have learned to overlook this common condition and only notice it when they stare at something bright, such as the sky or white paper/walls. Eye floaters don’t follow eye movements and tend to drift when the eyes aren’t moving.

Eye floaters are very common, with studies showing that most Smartphone users (76%) have eye floaters [2]. There are at least 5 leading causes of eye floaters which we describe below.

What causes eye floaters?

There are five leading causes of floaters. They include:

Age-related factors

The jelly-like substance in the eyeballs (vitreous) which helps to maintain their shape, changes with age i.e., liquefies partially pulling away from the interior surface of the eyeball.

This process causes slight sags, shrinks, and stringy clumps in the vitreous. When light passes through the eyes, tiny shadows which resemble floaters are cast on the retina.

Retinal tears

The retina can tear when sagging vitreous tugs on it exerting a lot of pressure. Floaters are a byproduct of this occurrence. If a person doesn’t seek treatment at this point, it can cause retinal detachment – fluid accumulation behind the retina. Untreated retinal detachment can cause permanent blindness.

Inflammation

Eye floaters can also be caused by a condition known as posterior uveitis (inflamed layers of the uvea, located at the back of the eyes). This condition can release inflammatory debris into the vitreous, causing floaters. Posterior uveitis is linked mostly to inflammatory diseases and infection.

Eye bleeding

Health conditions like; blocked blood vessels, hypertension, diabetes as well as injury can cause bleeding in the vitreous, which is seen as floaters.

Certain medication

Eye medication that is injected into the eye can result in air bubbles seen as shadows/floaters until the eye absorbs the medication. Such medicines are temporary causes of floaters.

Are eye floaters dangerous?

As previously mentioned floaters in the eye are very common and most people over 40 years old will experience them at some point.

Although experiencing floaters is rarely dangerous, you should book an appointment with your eye doctor in order to get them checked and discuss available treatment options.

This article is not a substitute for a consultation with your surgeon. Before choosing to proceed with laser eye surgery your surgeon will have a detailed discussion with you about the right procedure and about the potential complications.

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This article is not a substitute for a consultation with your surgeon. Before choosing to proceed with laser eye surgery your surgeon will have a detailed discussion with you about the right procedure and about the potential complications.

References:

[1] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/eye-floaters/symptoms-causes/syc-20372346

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3693028/