For most, this event is a minor and short-lived inconvenience, but for some it can become a disabling condition. If you suffer from eye floaters, then you are already familiar with the frustrating visual disturbance caused by these cobweb and cloud-like shadows.
The vitreous humor is a clear, jelly-like substance in the main chamber of the eye, located between the lens and the retina.
At a young age, the vitreous is perfectly transparent. Over time as the eye ages, this vitreous humor can degenerate, loosing its form and liquefying. Without the stable vitreous humor, the collagen fibers in the vitreous collapse and bind together to form clumps and knots. It is these fibers, which cast shadows on the retina and appear as spots, strings, or cobwebs that are commonly referred to as 'floaters'.
In many cases as the eye ages further, the vitreous humor can peel away from the retina entirely. This is known as Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD). PVD is often associated with a sudden increase in the number of floaters, or a new, more prominent floater.
In cases where floaters negatively affect a patient’s quality of vision, laser therapy and surgical treatment options are available.
Laser treatment is a minimally invasive procedure that can eliminate or reduce the visual disturbance caused by floaters. During treatment, nanosecond pulses of laser light are used to evaporate the collagen molecules within the floater, converting them to gas. The end result is that the floater is removed and/or reduced in size, significantly improving the quality of vision.
The surgical treatment of floaters involves a complete removal of the vitreous humor, and carries a risk of bleeding and infection. It can also result in cataract formation.
If you suddenly see a large number of floaters, possibly accompanied by some light flashes, you should see your ophthalmologist immediately. These symptoms may be indicative of a retinal detachment.