Floaters are dislodged pieces of vitreous gel in the eye that create tiny floating specks in the visual field, causing blind spots of various shapes and sizes. They range in severity, from being hardly noticeable and slightly annoying, to significantly debilitating vision. Everyone will experience eye floaters at some point in life, especially as they age.
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Test the floaters by blinking. Blink your eyes to see if the floaters move each time. If the floating fuzzballs move with blinking, this indicates a foreign substance, such as make-up, caught in the eye's tear film, not dislodged protein in the vitreous gel. Vitreous floaters move with eye movement, not blinking, according to The Eye Digest.
Assess the floaters. If you experience showers of floaters accompanied by flashes of light, seek emergency medical treatment. While most floaters are harmless, this is a sign of the eye's retina -- responsible for sending the visual message to the brain -- becoming detached, which can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated immediately.
Consider eye procedures you've had done. Floaters are sometimes side effects of eye procedures, such as corrective laser surgery, and will usually subside; or the floaters could indicate an unwanted result from an eye procedure. In either case, see an eye doctor.
Consider your age. As you age, your eye's vitreous gel begins to liquify. This process can sometimes cause it to shrink or pull back, shifting dislodged pieces of protein in the eye. If you are an older adult, know that this is a natural part of ageing.
Wait it out. If floaters have suddenly appeared and made you paranoid, understand that in 95 per cent of cases the floaters are harmless, and will fade and then disappear on their own; the dislodged bits that caused the floaters will settle at the bottom of the eye and out of the field of vision.
Take a diagnostic test. If you believe the floaters are significantly affecting your vision, have an eye doctor perform a Snellen visual acuity measurement test to assess the degree of debilitation. Optic surgery for floaters is available, but only if an eye doctor has concluded that the floaters are indeed causing an interference with everyday life by impairing vision ability.
Prepare for optical surgery. Vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that involves completely removing the vitreous gel from the eye and replacing it with a mixture of gas and air. While this procedure is effective for reducing floaters, the patient must consider that recovery requires 2 to 3 weeks of lying face down with no movement.
Consider YAG laser treatment as an alternative. This treatment reduces floaters using laser energy to dissolve and destroy the compact cells. Note that it is only offered by a handful of eye surgeons, and is still being refined and investigated for safety and efficacy.
Tips and warnings
- Always consult an eye doctor for any eye condition that is questionable.
- It is not possible to assess how long the floaters will last, but if they are merely annoying, and not debilitating to your vision, just let it go away on its own.
- Some patients, such as musicians (required to read sheet music) or vehicle operators, may not require as many vision test conclusions to get the eye doctor's approval for surgically ridding the eye floaters.
- There are no home remedies or manufactured products or supplements that have been clinically proven as safe and effective for reducing eye floaters, so don't be fooled by marketing promises that say otherwise.
- If you opt for a vitrectomy, note that patients must avoid strenuous activity and travel for a few months after surgery. There is a risk of elevated eye pressure after vitrectomy procedures, so follow your doctor's instructions to avoid vision-threatening complications.
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