How floaters affect vision

Floaters are tiny lines, specks or squiggles that float around your field of vision.  A recent Boston Globe response to a user who asked if they should worry about their floaters let them know that floaters are often benign but every once in awhile they can result in a serious a medical problem.  Director of vitreoretinal service at Opthalmic Consultants of Boston, Jeffrey Heier says that what the individual is seeing when floaters occur is a shadow across the retina by debris or a clump of cells that consist of a gel-like substance in the back of the eye called the vitreous.  This vitreous can shrink over the course of your life and liquefy which leaves the floaters behind.  This is more likely the older you get.

Sometimes floaters are considered prominent and this could be an indicator of a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD).  This is when the liquefied vitreous is separated from the retina.  In most serious cases, the PVD can be responsible for tearing the retina or even detaching from the rear of the eye entirely, a case that would result in permanent loss of vision.  It is important to see a doctor if the floaters are brand new, in mass quantities, there appears to be a prominent floater, or if you often get flashes.  If the retina is torn it is possible to repair it with freezing therapy or laser therapy but a detachment will require surgery more often then not.

If the floaters are benign they typically sort themselves out and go away without any therapy or surgery, however, some individuals see these floaters stick around and their daily activities are often affected by it.  Laser surgery has become more available then ever for floaters but the safety of the procedure and each procedure’s effectiveness has been considered inconclusive.