The inside of the eye, the part of the eye that gives it its round shape, is made up of a mixture of sugars and proteins, which collectively are called the vitreous. With age, the consistency of the vitreous changes from jelly-like to watery. When this happens, the vitreous may co llapse, detaching from the back (posterior) wall of the eye. This detachment naturally occurs in many people over 50.
The remaining jelly-like parts of the vitreous clump together and float around in the eye. When light hits the strands, a shadow is cast on the retina, which is seen as a floating gray spot or a floater. People who experience vitreous detachment will notice a sudden appearance of one or several floaters. Individuals with vitreous detachment may see sparkling lights.
If you believe that you may be experiencing vitreous detachment, you should schedule an eye exam with your ophthalmologist. The diagnosis is made by a thorough examination of the back of the eye while your pupils are dilated. Your doctor also will make sure to examine your retina to rule out small breaks, tears or damage to blood vessels.
In most cases, the only necessary treatment is monitoring. Usually, another exam is needed about a month after the initial exam. Floaters will stay in the eye for several months or years before gravity settles them to the bottom of the eye. If symptoms become more noticeable, an o phthalmologist should be contacted immediately.
If your eye doctor determines that the retina is damaged, you will need to seek treatment from a retinal specialist.