Unicorns, Dolphins, and Oval-shaped Specks

Floaters shaped like unicorns, or adorned with armrests and cup holders – GOOD. Floaters that appear as small black or gray spots drifting through your vision – BAD! Well, let’s just say not as good, but not necessarily bad.

We’ve all seen the occasional floater when we happen to stare too long at a bright light, turn away, and blink a few times. Those floaters are just a temporary imprint of the light on your eye, nothing to worry about. Sidenote: A simple way to deal with those bright light floaters, besides not looking too directly at any bright lights, is to wear sunglasses!

The other types of floaters, the ones without the armrests or cup holders, can appear like spots, flecks, or sometimes strings or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes. This type of eye floater is generally caused by age-related changes to the vitreous inside your eye – the “jelly-like” substance that supports the shape of your eye and helps transmit light to the retina. As you age, the vitreous in your eye becomes more liquid, and the protein fibers that make up the vitreous become more mobile and can clump together casting small shadows, or floaters, in your vision.

Should You Worry About Eye Floaters?

Floaters in your vision are simply a product of getting older, usually occurring between the ages of 50 and 75. Turns out that if you're nearsighted or have had cataract surgery in the past, you may be more likely to have floaters as you get older. Generally speaking, floaters are not something to be too concerned about.

That said, if you notice a sudden onset or increase in floaters, or if the floaters are accompanied by flashes of light or the loss of peripheral vision, you should contact your eye doctor immediately. While most instances of floaters are nothing to write home about, some floaters combined with these other symptoms can indicate a more serious concern.

Do Eye Floaters Go Away?

The short answer is, not really, but you do get used to them. Floaters seem to be deliberately taunting you; if you try to focus on them at all, they quickly dart away. Most people simply learn to live with them, and over time, tend not to notice them very much at all.

In some cases, the vitreous clumps of proteins will settle in the eye and remain out of your vision. If you experience eye floaters that are just too annoying to deal with, and you’ve waited long enough for them to abate on their own, your eye doctor may discuss a procedure called a vitrectomy with you, where the vitreous is removed and replaced with a salt solution.

Since most floaters are perfectly benign, and most people simply adjust to having them much like we adjust to all our other fun age-related transformations, eye floaters are generally not something to worry about. If you're trying to chase them out of your vision, it turns out, looking up and down tends to work better than side to side. And who said getting older wasn’t any fun!?

In the meantime, it’s nearly summer, so get yourself one of those much better floaters, the ones with the cup holders and cooler compartments, and get out on the lake! They’ll be time for eye floaters later on…

Chillin’ and Floatin’ at Berlin Optical Expressions