The human eye is a complex organ that consists of various structures and components.
The main function of the eye is to convert light into electrical signals, which are then transmitted to the brain for interpretation.
This process allows us to see the world around us.
The front part of the human eye is filled with a clear gel-like substance called the vitreous humor.
The vitreous humor helps the eye maintain its round shape, and it also provides support to the retina, which is located at the back of the eye.
The retina contains light-sensitive cells that convert electrical signals into images.
Unfortunately, eye conditions such as glaucoma and floaters can interfere with the normal functioning of the eye.
This article will shed some light on the subject by providing you with information about these issues.
But before we get into the details, let’s start with some basics.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a condition that involves increased pressure in the eye (IOP), which damages or destroys optic nerve fibers and leads to vision loss.
This happens because fluid produced within the eyes cannot drain properly due to either blockage of the drainage channels or loss of elasticity of eye tissues.
Remember, the optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that transmits visual information from the eye to the brain.
Hence, glaucoma can make you blind if not treated in time.
There are two types of glaucoma: primary open-angle and closed-angle secondary type.
Primary open-angle accounts for about 95% of all glaucoma cases.
Closed-angle accounts for the remaining percentage of all glaucomatous patients.
Glaucoma often runs in families, and some factors can increase its risk, including age, race, and having a family history of the disease.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
The glaucoma symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common ones include:
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights
- Colors looking faded
- Difficulty in seeing at night
- Sudden increase in the size of pupils
- Eye pain and headache
Glaucoma can also be asymptomatic initially, so regular eye checkups are so important.
What are Floaters?
Have you ever experienced wispy threads, specks, or cobwebs floating in your field of vision?
If so, you might have noticed the presence of what are known as eye floaters.
Oftentimes, you may see them when looking at a bright surface or when you’re looking up into the sky.
A floater is a small, dark, or shady spot that appears in your field of vision, and it may seem like something is floating inside your eye’s vitreous humor (the thick jelly-like around the eye).
Though these objects seem like they are floating in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside your eye.
So, whatever you see are merely the shadows they project on your retina.
While floaters generally aren’t a cause for concern and will eventually fade away on their own, they can be a sign of retinal detachment.
Different Shapes of Floaters
Floaters can appear in different shapes and shades, including:
Small dots that resemble blackheads in the eye’s vitreous. They are usually smaller than a grain of sand but can grow more prominent as you age.
They can appear as a solid shade of black, blue, or gray.
These are the most common types and often, we never notice them at all.
They usually don’t interfere with our vision unless they grow significantly in size.
Floaters can often appear as small circles that seem to drift about in your field of vision.
They can be any color but are often black, blue, or white.
These are less common than tiny dots and may cause more vision problems.
Circles generally move more quickly across your field of vision than the little dots do.
Larger circles that linger longer and cover more of your visual field can be quite bothersome. You should have this checked by an ophthalmologist right away if it happens to you.
Lines & Squiggles
These are thread-like shapes that are long or wispy and float in front of your eye.
They can be thicker near the bottom and taper off as they move towards the top, or vice versa, depending on how you look at them.
Lines tend to stay straight but may wiggle a bit from time to time.
If you see a wavy one, the chances are good that it’s a floater rather than an actual line.
On the other hand, squiggles may be any color but often have jagged edges or look like spider webs.
They can move around your field of vision, so they don’t always remain in one spot for long periods of time, if at all.
If you see a line or squiggle that is new and has never been there before, it’s important to have it checked out by an ophthalmologist as soon as possible.
This may be a sign of something serious such as a retinal tear or detachment.
Clouds or Cobwebs
Sometimes, floaters in the eyes may be accompanied by what looks like clouds or larger chunks that may look like pieces of cobwebs inside your eye.
These are tiny clumps of cells that have broken loose from the retina and cast shadows on the light-sensitive layer beneath it.
They can move around when you look from side to side or up and down and may seem to change shape or size.
If you see any new, sudden or large changes in the number, size, shape, or movement of floaters, it’s important to get checked by an ophthalmologist right away.
What Causes Floaters?
Floaters are caused by tiny bits of debris or cell material that cast shadows on the retina.
This can happen when the vitreous humor liquefies and separates from the retina (a normal process as we age) or when a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) occurs.
These bits of debris can be made up of different things such as collagen, blood cells, or lens proteins.
There are a few other causes of floaters, including:
As we age, the vitreous gel sticks together and starts to shrink, forming strands-like or clumps inside your eye.
When this happens, the vitreous can pull away from the retina, causing posterior vitreous detachment, a common occurrence in older adults.
This is a normal process, but it can sometimes cause floaters, as well as eye, flashes- sudden bright lights that you see when the vitreous pulls on the retina.
If you experience floaters and eye flashes, it may be a sign that you have an issue with your retina, especially if they develop suddenly.
For this reason, it is important to seek medical attention right away for any new floater experience.
The American Society of Retina Specialists notes that it is also essential to see your eye doctor if you are over 60 years of age.
If floaters develop suddenly at this age, it may be an indication that they have increased in size due to a posterior vitreous detachment- especially if they do not go away on their own after several weeks or months.
Suppose your eye is injured in an accident – your cornea or retina may have tears that lead to vitreal floaters.
The most common type of these is “macular holes.”
The macula is a portion of the retina responsible for central vision and can be damaged when blood vessels are torn during trauma.
After this happens, vitreous fluid can seep into the gaps in your retinal tissue – this, again, may lead to floaters.
Also, the trauma can lead to a condition called vitreous hemorrhage – which can cause floaters to form in the eye.
In this case, if you notice any sudden increase in these types of floaters, you must see an eye doctor right away.
Inflammation is one of the most frequent causes of floaters, which can be induced by various factors, including infection, trauma, and even tumors.
When there is inflammation inside your eye, the white blood cells enter the vitreous humor, resulting in visible floaters.
These are more prevalent in persons with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or sarcoidosis and those who have had eye surgery or a cataract removed.
Extremely nearsighted people stand a greater risk of developing eye floaters.
This can be due to several factors, including the eye’s elongated shape, which increases the odds of the vitreous detaching from the retina.
When this happens, it can cause debris to scatter throughout the vitreous humor and cast shadows on the retina.
This creates pesky floaters that nearsighted people often see.
While floaters are generally harmless, an increase in the number of floaters you see may be an indication of vitreous detachment.
The result of this separation can cause a posterior retinal detachment, in which you’ll see dark shadows or flashes across your vision.
This typically happens on one side of your vision, and it may get worse over time if left untreated.
Generally, you can figure out which eye has floaters by covering each eye one at a time and watching the floaters move.
If the floaters are still present when you cover your other eye, they’re likely in your dominant eye.
Other less common causes of floaters can be:
Diabetes: People with diabetes are at a higher risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, which can damage the blood vessels in the retina and lead to floaters.
Migraines: Some people experience migraines with aura or visual disturbances, including seeing spots, flashes of light, or floaters.
Eye surgery: Floaters may occur after eye surgery as the vitreous gel inside your eye contracts.
Toxins: If you’re exposed to certain chemicals, such as carbon monoxide or arsenic, it can cause floaters in the retina of one or both eyes.
If you think that there are multiple floaters and these symptoms sound familiar to yourself or someone else, contact an optometrist immediately!
Do Floaters Remain in the Eye For a Long Time?
Most people find that their eye floaters gradually become less noticeable as time goes on.
The decrease in size and density can be due to the neuro-adaptation process–actual absorption of the floater within the eye.
However, their floaters may stay about the same size and number for some people.
For a very small percentage of individuals, their floaters may even increase in size over time.
The density and size of the floaters may change depending on an individual eye.
One to Six Months
Floaters can take one to six months to dissolve fully, depending on the density and initial size.
In some cases, they can persist for a lifetime. In addition, if a retinal tear or hole causes the floaters, they may grow and multiply.
If you have glaucoma, it’s important to be especially vigilant about any changes in the appearance of your floaters.
Because they can be a sign of increased pressure within the eye, new or changing floaters should always be checked by your doctor.
How Dangerous are Floaters?
Though most floaters do not represent a severe medical condition, there are cases where you should seek help.
They can become extremely disruptive.
If the floaters begin to increase in number or start affecting your vision, it is time to see an eye doctor.
There is a slight chance of it being caused by a more severe problem such as an eye disease like glaucoma.
Furthermore, the presence of any of these symptoms could signal more serious problems, such as:
When the vitreous humor liquefies and shrinks, it tugs on the retina.
If this pulling continues long enough, it can create a retinal tear or detachment.
Both of these conditions are serious and potentially blinding.
They require prompt medical attention to prevent permanent vision loss.
Floaters can develop due to higher-than-normal pressure within the eye.
This is often referred to as high-speed pressure, which causes the retina to pull away from the wall of the eye.
This will lead to a posterior vitreous detachment, a retinal tear, or a hole.
The most common symptoms of high-speed pressure are:
- floaters or spots in your field of vision
- blurred vision
- seeing halos around lights
Floaters caused by high-speed pressure are typically more numerous and can be seen as a cobweb-like pattern.
If you experience a sudden onset of floaters, accompanied by a sensation of increased eye pressure, please seek medical attention immediately.
This could be an indication of a severe problem such as glaucoma.
Hemorrhaging Due to Diabetes
A common complication of diabetes is hemorrhaging.
Hemorrhaging can occur in any organ or tissue in the body, but it is most commonly seen in the eyes and brain.
When blood vessels near the surface of the eye rupture, bleeding into the vitreous humor can cause scar tissue to form.
This scar tissue can pull the retina away from the back of the eye, leading to vision problems.
If you have diabetes, it is important to get regular eye exams to check for signs of diabetic retinopathy.
Could Lead to Permanent Vision Issues
Floaters could lead to permanent vision issues such as glaucoma or optic nerve damage if left untreated.
Typically, floaters may be caused by a retinal tear, a typical side effect of floaters and may lead to retinal detachment if not treated.
Once the retina detaches, it can no longer send messages to the brain about what you are seeing.
This can cause permanent vision loss.
If you experience any changes in your vision, it is important to consult with an eye doctor as soon as possible.
Early detection and treatment of any issues is key to preserving your vision.
Floaters are small specks that you see when looking toward a bright, white surface such as the sky or snow. Floaters may be caused by vitreous degeneration and can result in permanent vision loss. Also, if left untreated, they could lead to glaucoma, one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. If you experience any changes in your vision, it is important to consult with an eye doctor as soon as possible. Having your eyes checked regularly could be the best way to prevent glaucoma and preserve your vision.
Thank you for reading! For more information on glaucoma and floaters, please visit our website or give us a call today. We would be happy to answer any of your questions.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Glaucoma Cause Floaters?
Floaters are often a common early sign of glaucoma, and they can be an indication that the pressure inside your eye is starting to increase.
However, not everyone with glaucoma will develop floaters and vice versa. If you are experiencing new or worsening floaters, it is important to speak to your doctor about your symptoms.
What Do Glaucoma Floaters Look Like?
Floaters are specks or spots that seem to drift across your field of vision. They can appear as black dots, white patches, or cobwebs.
Floaters move around because the gel inside your eye is thicker than normal fluid and has a different consistency, which causes it to refract light differently, giving them their movement in sight.
Does High Eye Pressure Cause Floaters?
The pressure inside your eye is one of the risk factors for developing glaucoma. However, not everyone who has high eye pressure will develop floaters.
Do You See Black Spots With Glaucoma?
Some types of glaucoma can cause black spots to appear in your vision, although the most common symptom is blurry or fuzzy sight.
Floaters are often described as black spots that move when you look around.
What Diseases are Associated With Eye Floaters?
There are a few diseases that are associated with eye floaters. The most common is age-related macular degeneration, which affects the retina and can cause vision loss.
Other diseases that can cause eye floaters include diabetic retinopathy, uveitis, and glaucoma. If you experience sudden changes in your vision, such as blurred or cloudy vision, be sure to visit your doctor.
How Do You Fix Eye Floaters?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to fix eye floaters may vary depending on their underlying cause.
However, some treatment options for eye floaters are surgery, laser therapy, or vitrectomy. You can also try to lead a healthy lifestyle that is conducive to managing your eye floaters.