Eye floaters are the deposits which are seen in the eye. The deposits or the condensation are generally seen in the vitreous jelly of the eye. They are called floaters because people see floating spots when they look at something. Eye floaters may show up in one or both eyes.
The cornea and lens are the structures present in front of the eye. They focus light rays onto the retina, which allows us to see different objects. The light that travels to the retina goes through the vitreous humor. It’s a jelly like compound and it fills about two thirds of the eye. At birth and during the childhood period the gel remains clear, but at the later stage in life there may be some deposits, strands or liquid pockets may appear in this jellylike material. Such strands result in a small shadow on the surface of the retina. Such shadows are considered as eye floaters by the patients. When you shift your eyes from one side to another or up-and-down, the strands also move in the eye. As a result, shadows look like floating objects.
How do they look like?
Eye floaters are seen as spots, curved or straight lines, strings, “O” or “C” shaped blobs. Some people may see only one floater, while others may see hundreds of them. The lines may look thin or thick. Sometimes some people even see branched lines. Most of the people, who experience such eye floaters, tend to see them as grey and darker in color. The density of the eye floaters vary even within one eye. These are more apparent under some specific lighting. When the patient looks at the bright eye, they become more prominent.
The eye floaters experience by different people are different and they cannot have exactly identical patterns. Even in case of a patient having eye floaters in both the eyes, the pattern of the floaters will be different in the two eyes. The pattern of eye floaters may also change.
You will not see the eye floaters in darkness or when the eyes are closed because they are always darker than the background.
Causes of eye floaters
Eye floaters can be caused by any eye condition which changes the clarity of the vitreous humor. Since changing the clarity will result in floaters, so any eye problem can be harmful if they change the clarity. When you get older, there will be some changes in the vitreous humor. With age, the jelly may naturally undergo some liquefaction and as a result, some small pockets may appear in the gel. This is known as vitreous syneresis.
There are some collagen fibres present in the vitreous. These fibres may thicken and become dense with age. Such a change can result in eye floaters. If you are over 50 years of age, you may have these changes happening in your eyes. The degree of eye floaters produced by such changes will vary a lot from one individual to another.
When the vitreous of the eyes ages, the gelatineous structure present in it shrinks and due to such shrinkage the back surface of the vitreous moves forward. The vitreous is attached to the optic nerve in the edges. When the shrinkage happens, the attachment to the nerve may release and people may see this floating within the eye. Such an eye floater may look bigger and circular. In the same event, the back surface of the vitreous will start floating in the eye and may result in eye floaters.