What are floaters and why are they important?

By: Manvir Singh

A floater can be seen by many people and it is a condition that affects many people. Floaters can be seen dependant on the certain variable such as if there are any bright lights in the area or if you are looking up into a clear blue sky.
So what is a floater? They are basically small spots that you can see within your vision. Depending on the condition of your eyes, these can be seen in either eyes or even both. In addition there are cases where they are not seen as spots, but instead seen as wavy lines.
The vitreous is where the floaters usually take place. This is the part of the eye which has a jelly like centre, and it occurs as each person gets older.
The vitreous may clump together to become liquid, this results in pockets of debris, these clumps and/or debris block small amounts of light which enters the eye when looking around, this casts a shadow on the retina (seeing part of the eye), thus a floater is noticed, which in actual fact is a very small shadow.
Cholesterol is something that can build up within the eye if floaters are not treated. That is why it is recommended that advice is sought after from your GP regarding this, to ensure there are not future eye health related matters.
If the problem is not improving, or is becoming worse quite quickly, then immediate assistance from your hospital is imperitive. Some serious clues when this is the case is if you are seeing many floaters appearing at the same time, or if a portion of your vision is blocked by a "curtain". But floaters are known to occur as you get older, so this factor would need to be considered.
People who are short-sighted, or have a family history of retinal detachment should monitor floaters more closely and visit their optician on a regular recall visit as advised on the time of the sight test.
Also an associated symptom with floaters is flashing lights, this can indicate a further complication, again if you notice and flashing lights or floaters call into your opticians, who will make a detailed assessment and issue appropriate advice and referral if needed or go straight to the casualty department at the hospital.
Generally, floaters are a condition that cannot be completely removed by any surgery or treatment. If you are used to floaters then your brain may eventually become accustomed to this and could possibly ignore what is happening. But the environment which you are in and the activities which you partake in would also be a factor in how many times you notice floaters.

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