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Floaters, Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Complications, Prevention

Floaters are shadows of small to large objects that appear to hover in sight. The size of floaters can vary, ranging from small black spots to bigger shadows like long straps. Floaters usually appear when someone sees bright light like the sun or stares at a basic color like white for too long. In general, floaters occur due to age. In the normal eye, light enters through the lens and cornea of the eye and continues towards the retina located at the back of the eye. Between the front and back of this eye, there is a supple mucous fluid that serves to maintain the shape of the eyeball, called the vitreus. As you get older, the thickness of the vitreous will decrease, and the residual stagnant dirt will begin to appear in it. The remaining dirt that appears is floaters.

Regardless of age, there are several factors that can cause floaters such as accidents that hurt the eyes, farsightedness, eye inflammation, infections, complications of diabetes, retinal tears, intraocular tumors, or migraines.

Symptoms of Floaters

In general, floaters do not cause pain but may cause excessive vision. Symptoms of floaters that are classified as harmless are like seeing small spots or lines like the shadow of a rope in the eye and still follow the vision path for a while. However, if you experience unusual symptoms such as spots or the shadow of the rope to change the size, see flashes of light, shakiness of peripheral vision, blurred vision to experience pain in the eye, it is strongly recommended to see a doctor as soon as possible.

Causes of Floaters

Floaters can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:

Floaters, Definition, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Complications, Prevention

  • Age
As we get older, the conditions in the eyes change. The vitreous fluid which initially has a chewy consistency to maintain the shape of the ball over time will melt and lose its elasticity. As a result, the vitreus will shrink, and some parts of the eyeball will be attracted. As the vitreus constricts and grows dense, the residual debris will begin to emerge which eventually blocks the visual pathway.
  • Eye bleeding
There are several things that can cause bleeding in the vitreus, including direct trauma to the eye or when there is a disturbance in the blood vessels in the eye, as happens in the case of diabetic retinopathy
  • Inflammation of the back of the eye
This condition is also called posterior uveitis, where the uvea layer (the lining in the back of the eyeball) is inflamed due to infection.
  • Retinal Tears
This retinal tear can occur when the shrinking vitreus can attract the retinal layer. If not treated immediately, this retinal tear will cause the retinal layer to escape, which can be at risk for blindness.

Diagnosis of Floaters

If you experience unusual floaters problems, it is highly recommended to see an ophthalmologist. Explain completely about your symptoms and history of the disease (especially the eyes) to make it easier for the doctor to diagnose. If the doctor finds symptoms that are severe enough, especially those related to the retina (which is usually rare), the doctor may take several tests such as:

  • Physical Test
The doctor will see the activity of your retina through the pupil and monitor the small size when exposed to light. If it cannot be diagnosed directly, the doctor will use eye drops to dilate the pupils and make it easier for the doctor to check the condition. In addition, the doctor may also use a tool called a slit lamp along with bright lighting to examine the inside of the eye. Usually, after testing with the help of eye drops or slit lamp, your vision will feel blurry or glare for several hours. It is recommended not to drive or carry out outdoor activities until the glare subsides.
  • Tonometry Test
If needed, a tonometric test or test to check eye pressure can be done to see the ability and strength of the patient's eye (intraocular pressure).

Treatment of Floaters

Floaters usually do not require special treatment because they can disappear on their own. However, if the levels of floaters are considered to be very disturbing to vision, there are several treatment options commonly recommended by doctors, such as:

  • Laser Therapy
The doctor will direct a special laser beam on the glass body (vitreous humor) to destroy the floaters into smaller particles, so as not to disturb vision. This therapy must be done carefully because it can damage the retina if the laser direction is not correct.
  • Vitrectomy
If laser therapy doesn't help much, vitrectomy surgery can be an option for people with floaters. This operation is carried out by lifting the glass body along with floating small grains and replacing it with sterile salt liquid. Before taking a vitrectomy, it is recommended to consult with a doctor first to find out the risks and side effects that might occur.

Complications of Floaters

Floaters generally do not cause complications, but the risk can increase when patients take steps to vitrectomy, such as:

  • Tearing and bleeding in the retina
  • Ablation or detachment of the retina from the eye
  • Cataracts

See a doctor immediately if you experience complications or feel unusual differences after surgery or other therapies.

Prevention of Floaters

Floaters generally cannot be prevented. Even so, you are advised to check eye health at the optics or eye clinic at least every 2 years to determine the health status of your eyes. The examination also serves to ensure that floaters are not a symptom of a more serious condition that can damage eye vision.
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