You’re over at Port Austin enjoying an expansive view of Lake Huron backed by a clear blue sky. But when you pull your focus off the distant sky, you notice squiggly lines, spots, or cobwebs floating about seemingly in front of your eyes. You’ve seen them before, but in the back of your mind you’ve always wondered if they are something to be concerned about.
What you’re seeing are known as “floaters” and about three quarters of us see them. Usually, they’re harmless and don’t need any attention, but in some patients, they could be a sign of vitreous detachment.
To assuage your potential worry, here’s some information on floaters from the team at Wilkinson Eye Center.
What are floaters?
Floaters appear as if they are on the front of the lens of your eyes. Actually, they are shadows cast by objects suspended in the clear, gel-like substance that makes up the vitreous humor, which is the majority of what’s in the interior of your eyes. The vitreous helps maintain the eye’s round shape.
You see floaters because focused light passes through the lens of your eye heading for the back of the eye, the retina. The retina has photosensitive cells called rods and cones that take the light energy and convert it into signals that are carried to the brain by the optic nerve. Problem is, before the light gets to the retina it has to pass through the vitreous, where the globs and lines are floating around. So, the light passes through and creates shadows.
Floaters are normally clumps of protein in the vitreous gel. Depending on your imagination, you can see them as transparent worms, tadpoles, circles, even a see-through Yeti up in the U.P.! Once the protein clumps together and makes a floater it is a permanent part of your eye.
More with age
Just as you have more aches the older you get, so it is with floaters. As we age, the vitreous gel shrinks. As it pulls away from the retina, bits of debris can enter the gel and become new floaters. These floaters look like cobwebs.
Regular exams make sure they’re just floaters
While most floaters are just a part of being human, sometimes they can point to more serious retinal problems such as holes, tears, or detachment. That’s why it’s important to get regular eye exams with the team at Wilkinson. After you turn 55, it’s a good idea to have one exam every year. We have special instruments that can look at the retina and the vitreous to distinguish between the harmless globs of protein and more serious issues.
If you see a dramatic increase in seeming new floaters, or if you’re seeing persistent flashes, that’s a reason to make an appointment to see us at Wilkinson Eye Center, as these can be signs of retinal detachment. Call us at either of our two Pontiac and Clarkston locations, (248) 334-4931 or (248) 625-5922.