6 Risk Factors of Eye Floaters

If you’re seeing spots — and squiggles, threads, cobwebs or dots — it may be more than a mere optical illusion. You may have eye floaters, specks of the protein collagen, that cast shadows upon your retina.

Floaters, (also called myodaeopsia), lodge in a jello-like substance called the vitreous. The vitreous fills approximately 80 percent of your eyeball and helps it keep its shape. From birth through childhood, the vitreous is clear and transparent. During aging it shrivels into tiny clusters called eye floaters. People over the age of 50 comprise a quarter of the people who develop floaters, escalating to two-thirds of 80 year-olds. However, floaters occasionally develop earlier — some people are born with them.

Eye floaters are suspended in the vitreous, so when your eyeball moves, they do too. On the other hand, you can’t see blood vessels in your eyeball because veins are fixed. When you attempt to look directly at an eye floater it seems to follow your eye’s movement, then vanish. Floaters hovering within your peripheral vision are inconspicuous, but they may travel from the sidelines to your central vision.

Floaters’ visibility depends upon lighting and background. They may be apparent if you’re looking at a bright light, such as a sunny window or your smartphone. Unlike the rest of the vitreous, an eye floater is not transparent, so it becomes more obvious when contrasted with light. Conversely, it becomes invisible in dimness or darkness. This is why ophthalmologists completely dilate the eye when they’re examining a patient for floaters.

Eye floaters are often prevalent in people who are nearsighted, have suffered eye trauma or experienced complications from eye surgery, have diabetic retinopathy and those with eye inflammation. Look out for your eyes’ health by reading our 6 Risk Factors of Eye Floaters:

1. PEOPLE OVER THE AGE OF 50

With advancing age, there is a higher risk factor for people over the age of 50 to develop eye floaters. At this point in life, the vitreous starts drying out, forming blobs and strings. Aging also produces eye debris, such as retinal fibers and bits of blood vessels, that can become floaters. As you get older, there is also a possibility of strings in the vitreous fluid stretching and pulling away from the retina. Typically, this is not an issue.

In people over 50, however, these fibers may tug hard and tear the eye’s retina or its central portion (called the macula). The eye’s fluid then seeps through the tear, causing the vitreous to separate (also called a vitreous detachment).

If a torn retina or macula goes untreated, it will cause permanent vision loss. This impairment can happen within many days, or even a few hours. If you have several floaters or a moderate amount, this is normal. But if they suddenly multiply, see your healthcare provider immediately. Since the retina has no pain receptors, a dramatic increase in eye floaters can be a vital clue that the eye is becoming damaged in a way that could cause permanent deterioration.