Sumana Bohra has been seeing dark spots, squiggly lines and thread-like strands in her field of vision for about four months. Of late, there have also been flashes of light and a slight loss of side vision. Her ophthalmologist has told her that she has 'floaters' in her eye and because the condition is severe, she might need surgery.
Have you ever noticed certain dark spots or floating strands in your vision, especially while looking at the sky? These floating strands aren't your imagination but an eye problem called floaters.
Floaters are dark specks, strands, spots, dots or cobwebs moving in the field of vision. These are more apparent while looking at a plain background or the sky. Although floaters seem to be in front of the eye, they are in fact opacities floating inside the eye.
Our eye contains a jelly like substance, called vitreous, which fills the central cavity of the eye. As one ages, the vitreous shrinks, thickens or becomes more fluid, leading to the formation of clumps or strands inside the eye called floaters. Apart from aging, another factor that leads to the occurrence of floaters is "posterior vitreous detachment", also called PVD. It is a condition in which the vitreous gel pulls away from the retina. Floaters can also be related with eye diseases like vitreous haemorrhage or conditions like migraine.
Floaters are often seen along with flashing lights. These are flashes that are seen going on and off, especially on one side of the field of vision.If you ever see jagged lines of light in your vision that last for 10 to 20 minutes, this is apparently a migraine caused by blood vessels' spasm in the brain. This can happen in one or both the eyes.
Although floaters alone are harmless, the changes they bring inside the eye can be potentially damaging. If left untreated, these may lead to loss of vision. But sometimes, if the shrinking vitreous gel pulls away from the eye wall, then it might lead to retinal tear. A retinal tear, if not treated, can lead to retinal detachment.
In few cases, there is a sudden occurrence of flashing lights or a blackout in a part of the field of vision. If this happens, make no delay and visit a corneal specialist immediately to check if you have a retinal tear or detachment.
Depending upon the condition, the treatment of floaters and flashes is decided. Though in most cases they are not harmful, but it is very important to get your eyes examined to make sure there has been no damage to the retina.
- Not much can be done to prevent the occurrence of eye floaters, but having a healthy diet rich in Vitamin A and C can definitely act as a preventive shield against any eye disease.
- Follow a disciplined lifestyle and include exercise, especially eye exercises, in your daily routine.
- With time, most floaters fade away and become less bothersome. However, if you are not able to cope with your daily chores due to them, then floater correction surgery, vitrectomy, can be considered.
- In case retinal tear is found, the doctor may suggest laser surgery or cryotherapy.
Dr Rajeev Jain is eye surgeon and director, Save Sight Centre, New Delhi.
Photograph: JalalV/ Creative Commons