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What Are Eye Floaters

The medical name for eye floaters is Muscae Volitantes.  They have various other names such as boogies, creepers, and even amoeba.  They’ve been described as annoying gnat-like spots that float in and out of the visual field. Eye floaters can be an unwanted distraction in a world already brimming with unwanted distractions.

Inside the eyeball, there is a clear gel substance called the vitreous humor that gives the eye its round shape and helps keep it in its socket.  Any issue with this gel results in vision problems or loss.  Floaters occur because this gel substance is constantly changing shape and moving them around.  The best way to actually find floaters is by looking at a light surface in a well-lit room.  Floaters tend to have an asymmetric shape and can vary in size.  This is due to the effect of light and shadows playing against each other.

Causes and Risk Factors of Floaters

This is one of the most critical questions we ask ourselves when our eyes start to play tricks on us… medically speaking, that is.  What causes it?  Why am I affected?

Aging:  The most common risk factor of developing eye floaters is age.  As we get older, this gel starts to dry up and shrink, causing it to form clusters of strands and clumps, and even large empty pockets. The fibers in the eye also start to wear down with age, detaching from the eye and contributing to the floaters.  These issues, along with other sources of eye debris, are what cause the floaters. They can worsen with age and should be watched very closely.  Any increase in symptoms could point to more serious problems, so immediate treatment is necessary. 

Eye Straining:  Another cause is general eye strain, or intense use of the muscles.  Working on a computer, reading frequently, or driving for long periods of time, for example.  Most of the time, these floaters are benign and can be treated by simply resting your eyes; however, if they become severe or more frequent, it could lead to more serious eye conditions. 

Fighting:  Frequent fights resulting in punches to the eye can cause floaters. In fact, most traumas that involve a blow to the eye will result in at least a few.  A direct hit to the eye risks detaching the retina completely. Many a prized fighter lost his career due to a detached retina acquired in the ring. 

Medical Conditions:  People with diabetes, in addition to blood sugar, or circulation problems are at higher risk of developing eye diseases. Oftentimes, these diseases are preceded by the occurrence of more eye floaters than usual. People suffering from these conditions should get frequent eye checkups.

Certain groups of people are more prone to getting floaters. People with nearsightedness (myopia) are likely to have more floaters due to eye strain and tearing. Anyone who has recently had eye surgery, especially in the case of cataract surgery, is also at greater risk of developing floaters.

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