Vitreous opacities

By Medically reviewed by Panel Perubatan Hello Doktor

Definition

What is vitreous opacities?

Vitreous opacities are conditions whereby you experience eye floaters.  Eye floaters are small spots that drift through your field of vision. They may stand out when you look at something bright, like white paper or a blue sky. They might annoy you, but they shouldn’t interfere with your sight.

How common is vitreous opacities?

Vitreous opacities can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of vitreous opacities?

The common symptoms of vitreous opacities are:

  • Spots in your vision that appear as dark specks or knobby, transparent strings of floating material
  • Spots that move when you move your eyes, so when you try to look at them, they move quickly out of your visual field
  • Spots that are most noticeable when you look at a plain bright background, such as a blue sky or a white wall
  • Spots that eventually settle down and drift out of the line of vision

Floaters earn their name by moving around in your eye. They tend to dart away when you try to focus on them.  Once you get them, they usually don’t go away. But they might get better over time

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Many more eye floaters than usual;
  • A sudden onset of new floaters
  • Flashes of light;
  • Darkness on the sides of your vision (peripheral vision loss).

These painless symptoms could be caused by a retinal tear, with or without a retinal detachment — a sight-threatening condition that requires immediate attention.

Causes

What causes vitreous opacities?

Most floaters are small flecks of a protein called collagen. They’re part of a gel-like substance in the back of your eye called the vitreous. As you age, the protein fibers that make up the vitreous shrink down to little shreds that clump together. The shadows they cast on your retina are floaters. If you see a flash, it’s because the vitreous has pulled away from the retina. Below are some causes for the conditions:

  • Age-related eye changes: Eye floaters most commonly occur as a result of age-related changes in the vitreous, the jelly-like substance that fills your eyeballs and helps maintain their round shape. Over time, the vitreous partially liquefies — a process that causes it to pull away from the eyeball’s interior surface. As the vitreous shrinks and sags, it clumps and gets stringy. Bits of this debris block some of the light passing through the eye, casting tiny shadows on your retina.
  • Inflammation in the back of the eye: Posterior uveitis is inflammation in the layers of the uvea in the back of the eye. Posterior uveitis, which can cause eye floaters, may be caused by infection or inflammatory diseases, among other causes.
  • Bleeding in the eye: Bleeding into the vitreous can have many causes, including injury and blood vessel problems.
  • Torn retina: Retinal tears can occur when a sagging vitreous tugs on the retina with enough force to tear it. Without treatment, retinal tear may lead to retinal detachment — an accumulation of fluid behind the retina that causes it to separate from the back of your eye. Untreated retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for vitreous opacities?

There are many risk factors for vitreous opacities, such as:

  • Age over 50;
  • Nearsightedness;
  • Eye trauma;
  • Complications from cataract surgery;
  • Diabetic retinopathy;
  • Eye inflammation.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is vitreous opacities diagnosed?

Your doctor will conduct a complete eye exam including eye dilation to better see the back of your eyes.

How is vitreous opacities treated?

Eye floaters can be frustrating, and adjusting to them can take time. However, you may eventually be able to ignore them or notice them less often.

If your eye floaters impair your vision, which happens rarely, you and your eye doctor may consider treatment. Options may include:

  • Using a laser to disrupt the floaters. An ophthalmologist aims a special laser at the floaters in the vitreous, which may break them up and make them less noticeable. Some people who have this treatment report improved vision; others notice little or no difference.
  • Risks of laser therapy include damage to your retina if the laser is aimed incorrectly. Laser surgery to treat floaters is used infrequently.
  • Using surgery to remove the vitreous. An ophthalmologist removes the vitreous through a small incision and replaces it with a solution to help your eye maintain its shape. Surgery may not remove all the floaters, and new floaters can develop after surgery. Risks of vitrectomy include bleeding and retinal tears.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage vitreous opacities?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with vitreous opacities:

Most eye floaters occur as part of the natural aging process. While you can’t prevent eye floaters, you can make sure they’re not the result of a larger problem. As soon as you begin noticing eye floaters, see your ophthalmologist. They will want to make sure your eye floaters are not a symptom of a more serious condition that could damage your vision.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: December 11, 2016 | Last Modified: December 8, 2019

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