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FLOATING IMAGES

Older individuals sometimes notice spots and specks floating across their fields of vision, particularly when looking up at the sky or other solid-hued backgrounds. While these “floaters” may initially arouse concern, they are generally nothing to worry about. These floating thread-like fragments are actually strands of collagen (a protein) that commonly occur as a result of shrinkage of the “vitreous humor” (the gel-like substance inside the eye). As we age, the vitreous humor shrinks and the fine collagen fibers it contains become thread-like. Like clouds in the sky, they can block the light hitting the retina, thereby creating shadows that we see as floaters. No treatment is required, but sudden increases or sudden flashes of light should prompt immediate treatment. Although seeing “floaters” typically does not signal a problem, there are some instances where a retinal detachment may occur.  Just as you routinely have your teeth cleaned and blood pressure checked, you should also have your eyes examined. Floaters most often occur among people between the ages of 50 and 75, especially in very nearsighted individuals and cataract patients.