This very common complaint is the phenomenon of seeing fine wavy lines, dots or spots in front of the eyes. They are also variously described by patients as cobwebs, mosquitoes or flies. They seem to ‘float’ in midair, hence the term ‘floaters’
‘Benign’ Versus ‘Sinister’ Floaters
Floaters can be benign or they may signal the presence of an underlying sinister eye problem. Fortunately, most floaters are of the benign type. Benign floaters are usually few in number and have been present for a long time. Sinister floaters are usually of sudden onset and come as a shower.
The cause of Benign Floaters
The cavity of the eyeball behind the lens is filled, not with fluid as is commonly presumed, but with a transparent jelly-like tissue called the vitreous body or vitreous gel. As one ages, this vitreous body may shrink and form sediments. These sediments under certain lighting conditions, will cast their shadows on the retina causing the phenomenon of seeing floaters. This is the cause of benign floaters.
The Cause of Sinister Floaters
Floaters are not always benign. Sinister floaters are caused by fine bleeding of blood into the vitreous body. The blood comes from damaged retinal blood vessels in diseases such as diabetic eye disease, retinal vein occlusion, retinal tears and retinal detachment.