They are extremely irritating and a massive nuisance, but here are some facts on these floating spots:

First of all, what do these floaters look like?

Floaters can be visible in any shape or size. Most people describe the appearance of floaters in one of the following ways: Black/grey dots, ring shapes, threadlike cobwebs or squiggly lines.

These floaters also move around freely and when you try to follow a floater, they always outrun your quick “Usian Bolt”- eye movements.

What is floaters and why do I have them?

Let’s start at the beginning:

Inside the eye there is a jelly-like substance that is transparent and gives the eyeball it’s nice, round shape. This jelly-like substance is called the vitreous humor. With age, the vitreous humor changes in structure and floaters are born. Floaters are condensation or clumping together of the proteins within this jelly-like substance. Therefore, floaters aren’t actually alive as they don’t have an active metabolism.

Due to the vitreous humor being within the eyeball, these floaters have nowhere to move to and that is why they are stuck within your eye.

Often the presence of floaters increase with age, but there could be some other reasons why you have floaters too.

Some of these reasons are:

  • Posterior vitreous detachment: This is when the jelly-like substance (vitreous humor) detaches from the back of your eye. This is very common in people over the age of 60 and typically they don’t have any serious complications.
  • Retinal detachment: This is when the retina (which is responsible for collecting all visual signals and sending the signals to the brain) detaches from the back of the eye.
  • Myopia: Better known as short-sightedness. Some studies suggest that this could be the reason why younger people have floaters.

What is the treatment options?

For the most part, floaters are considered to be benign and therefore an aggressive treatment strategy is unlikely.

In cases where the presence of floaters are just too much to handle, the ophthalmologist might consider removing the vitreous humor and replacing it with gas. This is rarely done as the risk of surgery outweighs the benefit thereof.

Last thoughts on these rascals:

If you’re wondering if you’ll ever be rid of your floaters, the answer is: It is unlikely, but miracles do happen.

If you have a sudden increase in the amount of floaters, decrease of vision, see flashing lights or have the sensation of a curtain/shadow hanging in your vision, please consult your Optometrist as fast as you can.

Remember, if it feels like something is wrong, don’t let it float away.

Visit your friendly optometrist and find the silver lining to your floating cloud.

  • Janine Vorster