If you have been seeing translucent strings or specks across your field of vision, you may have floaters. Floaters can be annoying, but are not usually dangerous nor should they affect your vision. Floaters are caused when the vitreous, a gel-like substance in your eye, changes shape due to aging, injury, or certain diseases, becomes stringy and appears as shifting shapes in your field of vision. No treatment is necessary for floaters themselves.
However, if the floaters seem worse, or are accompanied by flashes of light or loss of side vision, you should see an eye doctor immediately. You may have a more serious eye condition. Retinal detachment occurs when the retina pulls away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen, causing a vision-threatening emergency. Watch for signs of a sudden increase in floaters, quick flashes of light, or a shadow or curtain that appears, clouding your vision. You must seek immediate medical care to preserve your vision.
The treatment depends on the level of damage, but surgery is likely. If the damage is a partial tear, outpatient laser surgery or cryopexy (the freezing of the eye surface to close the tear) will be done. For more serious detachments, there are several surgical methods including injecting air (pneumatic retinoplexy), indenting the eye surface (scleral buckling) and the removal and replacment of the vitreous. Full recovery of normal vision depends on the initial tear or detachment and how successful the repair.
Floaters may indicate other serious eye conditions such as as an inflammatory disease (Uveitus) or diabetic vitreopathy, both of which could permanently damage your vision, so prompt medical care is vital if you notice increased floaters or see flashes of light, or if your vision seems cloudy or blurry.
If the floaters really bother you and eye diseases have been ruled out, there are two surgical options available: itrectomy and laser surgery, both of which carry risks.
Vitrectomy involves the removal of the vitreous fluid and replacing it with a saline solution. This is recommended for floaters that have significantly occluded the vision. Complications include retinal tears and detachment, and cataracts.
The newest treatment is laser surgery, using a YAG laser, and is thought to be safer than vitrectomy. However, few surgeons are trained to remove floaters with a laser. The process involves the eyes being numbed with drops and the laser being used to break up the strings of vitreous that causes the vision disturbance. There is a risk of cataracts with this procedure.
While floaters can be a nuisance, they are not normally harmful and you will likely not notice them after a while. Just be alert for the warning signs above that your vision health could be in jeopardy and see your eye doctor, one like Atlantic Ophthalmology, immediately.