You might have observed shapes such as threads, dots, or specks floating in your field of vision. If you try to focus on them, they tend to drift away. These are generally called floaters.
The human eye comprises the vitreous, which somewhat resembles jelly. As we age, strands of collagen form in the vitreous and when these strands, specks, or dots of collagen move in the vitreous when the eye moves, we feel as if we are seeing floaters.
In case of some people above forty, the vitreous moves away from the retina, in which case, they see flashes of white light and an incredibly large number of floaters. This is a sign of a serious condition called posterior vitreous detachment, which if neglected might cause retinal detachment.
Effects on Vision
Floaters are invisible in some cases because the brain gets used to them and learns to ignore them. Although most people notice floaters, they do not have much of an effect on vision.
In a huge majority of eye cases, floaters are harmless. They neither hinder vision nor do they indicate serious eye problems. However, a person who sees too many floaters or a person who has begun seeing more than the usual number of floaters must visit the eye care specialist. If a person sees flashes of bright white light, it is high time he/she fixes an appointment with the ophthalmologist because it is a sign of retinal detachment.
If you are getting irritated with your floaters, you can ask your ophthalmologist about a surgical procedure called vitrectomy, in which the vitreous is removed.
Unfortunately, eye surgeons hesitate to perform this operation because of the risks involved. Major complications include cataract and retinal detachment, which might lead to loss of vision. Eye surgeons, therefore, never perform this procedure until and unless the patient is at the serious risk of losing his/her sight.
In majority of the cases, floaters are harmless and disappear after a few days, owing to which no treatment is required. Ophthalmologists almost never recommend surgery to correct floaters. Contrary to popular belief, floaters are not related in any way to vitamin deficiency owing to which no amount of vitamin intake can make floaters disappear.
If you observe a sudden rise in the number of floaters you see, you must fix an appointment with your eye specialist. You should take brilliant flashes of white light in front of your eyes accompanied by floaters very seriously because they can be signs of a very serious condition called retinal detachment.
You must, however, remember that these flashes and floaters have nothing to do with the flash that appears before your eyes when someone hits you hard on the head or when you have a migraine headache. A blow on the head creates pressure in the retina, which sends a quick message to the brain, deciphered as a “flash.” In case of a migraine, blood vessels in the brain undergo spasms, owing to which flashes appear before the eyes.