Are Eye Floaters Serious? Here’s What You Should Know

About a week ago, I was drying my hair and saw a woman's eyesomething crawl through my bangs.  I slapped at it quickly but it seemed to be nothing.  Just my imagination.   I didn’t give it much thought until the next morning when I saw it again.

“My eye spider”, as I have come to call it, is now my constant companion and has forced me to answer two important questions: (1) Are eye floaters dangerous?  And (2) Is it possible to make peace with a spider living in your eye?

I Was A Little Frightened

First, I made an appointment with an optometrist, relieved that she could see me the following day.  In the meantime, I sat in the dark to relieve the constant urge to watch the thing move around in my eye.  Watching it gave me a little motion sickness, as the dark spot danced uncontrollably.

Because I didn’t know much about floaters, I was worried, especially when I read that they can be a sign of possible retinal detachment, a serious condition that could lead to blindness if not treated.

People can actually get used to them, I read, but I couldn’t believe it. I have learned in the last week, however, that what we see is greatly determined by our emotional state, what we worry about, and what we think is important.  It’s about what we chose to focus on.

My “Spider” Was a Vitreous Detachment

The optometrist dilated my pupil and spent several minutes eye with vitreous detachmentexamining the inside of my eye with an extremely bright light. She had me look left and right, up and down over and over, as she examined the back wall of my eye, the light-sensitive retina, for holes.

Luckily, she said my retina looked fine but asked me to come back in a month so she could examine it again. She explained that I have a “vitreous detachment” meaning that part of the gel-like center of my eye has pulled away from my retina and a piece of it is floating around loose in the gel.  She could plainly see it with her bright light.  It’s what looks like a spider to me.

Vitreal detachments become common in ones 40s and 50s.  The danger, she said, is that when the vitreous pulls away from the back of the eye, it can sometimes tear a hole in the retina in the process.

Beware of Sudden Bright Lights

If this happens, I might see a sudden bright light as the retina is pulled by the vitreous.    I would need to see her immediately and it would likely have to be surgically repaired.

In the meantime, I am not to swing my head up or down quickly or do any high impact exercise until my appointment in 4 weeks.  She said after that, the danger period should be over and I can return to normal activities.

I asked her about removing the floater with a laser, as I had read as a possible treatment, but she said this was not an option because the floater is located right in front of my macula and optic nerve, and the laser could damage both.

I Was Not Happy About This

I became angry when she said that I would have to get used to the floater. She said it might settle to the bottom of my eye, where I wouldn’t see it anymore, but this could take some time.  She wouldn’t say how long.

“But I have a spider in my eye!” I burst out.  “How am I supposed to get used to it?”  She was sympathetic but said that people have this condition all the time.  I said it was dark and big and darted around in my eye exactly like a spider in a web and it drove me crazy!  I could even see filaments around it in bright light that looked exactly like a web.

I told her I asked my friends about it and some of them had translucent floaters that were barely noticeable. Nothing like the dark creature that wandered my field of vision.  But nothing could be done, so we went home.

Despite my outburst, I was relieved that there was no imminent danger as long as I avoided jolting movements.  I was also advised not to fly in an airplane because the air pressure changes might pull on my retina.

OK, It’s An Adventure

At home, I tried to draw my husband a picture of my creature (I’m not much of an artist) and was determined to view the whole experience as an adventure and good writing material.

I read about vitamins and foods recommended for eye health and watched with surprise as I actually did become more acclimated to “my spider” over the next few days.

Here’s what you should know about floaters:

  • Floaters are fairly common and often go unnoticed, but if you see flashes of light or sudden obstructive floaters, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.
  • In most cases, a floater will not involve a retinal detachment, but your optometrist may want to keep an eye on you for several weeks and schedule a follow-up visit.
  • After you have seen your eye doctor, it’s time to relax.  In the first few days, a large floater can be very unsettling.  Take time to rest in a darkened room.  This will calm both your eyes and your anxiety.
  • Give yourself time to adjust to your situation. Eye floaters typically diminish within 3 months says WebMD.  That may sound like a long time, but the good news is that your body and mind will adjust quickly.   I made significant adjustments in just a few days.
  • Allow yourself to be curious about your floater, and then forget girl in sunlightabout it. For the first few days, I couldn’t take my eyes off it.   I was both fascinated and weirded out. It’s frightening to have something as vital as your vision taken from your control.   It feels like an invasion.  But remarkably, your mind will soon adjust and you won’t notice it as often.   A few days more, and you will get bored with it and your normal concerns will resurface.
  • It will disappear at times (almost).  I was afraid to drive at first, but it really wasn’t a problem.   My floater was like a bug on my windshield:  I looked right through it to see where I was going. My mind easily ignored it, just like it does any smear or imperfection on glass that you need to see through.
  • OK, bright light is pretty bad.  I have to admit that my spider is still pretty annoying when I go for a walk in my favorite park.  I want to see the unblemished beauty of hills and trees, not my floater hopping around on its translucent web.  Yes, the floater and the bits of gel attached to it are keenly visible in bright light. But by my second lap, I didn’t see the thing anymore because I was too busy greeting passers-by and enjoying the sun.
  • You will learn little tricks to help you see better.  Trouble reading? Dim your computer screen or use a narrow tablet or smartphone to read.  The less left-to-right movement your eye has to make on each line of text, the less the floater will move back and forth and the less you will see it as you read.
  • Appreciate the times when you can see quite well.   At night, for instance, your vision will seem pretty normal.  And when your eyes aren’t forced to glance around a lot, you will see better.  For example, I am pleasantly surprised that when I watch TV or sit and talk with a friend that I don’t notice the floater much at all.   This is because I’m engrossed in what I’m doing and my eye isn’t forced to move around much.
  • Try to see it as an adventure and marvel at your body’s ability to adjust.  Soon you will be making jokes about your little creature and wondering what the fuss was about.
  • Eat plenty of foods that nourish your eyes, such as leafy green vegetables for eye healthvegetables, carrots, blueberries, red bell peppers, and eggs.
  • Consider eye-supportive supplements such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Omega -3 fatty acids.  Also, mixed carotenoid supplements are recommended by naturopathic doctors for eye health. This beta carotene supplement contains a natural mix of beneficial carotenoids.
  • Lastly, accept your situation while knowing that it will most likely improve in a few months. Acceptance helps you live more fully, while hope of improvement encourages you to make positive changes and take good care of yourself.

 

8 thoughts on “Are Eye Floaters Serious? Here’s What You Should Know

  1. I was told by my eye doctor a few years ago that I have a few small floaters in my eyes. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had noticed some small wiggly white spots a time or two, but I hadn’t given them a second thought. He told me that they weren’t anything to worry about for now, but if they become larger or appear more often I should make an appointment to have them looked at. Thanks for sharing your input on the subject. I always enjoy reading your articles.

    1. Hi, Roberta!

      My husband has those small wiggly white floaters too, which he only notices in bright light, and more now because I’ve been talking about mine a lot. LOL. Yeah, it’s good to have them looked at once in a while, especially if they suddenly change, or you see a very noticeable bright light in your eyes. It does sound like yours are minor at this point. Thanks for writing and I’m glad you’re enjoying my posts! Jen

  2. Jen, I can appreciate the feelings you had and the issues you were going through. I have another eye issue as well. Mine was caused by stress and lack of sleep. Even 20 year olds get this.

    Floaters seem to be a part of it sometimes, so this information helps to know.

    Something I forgot to tell the doctor was that sometimes I get little flashes of light, but not often. You are saying we need to contact our doctor immediately? Scary! Maybe I should have, but I have not thought about this for a long time. Either I got used to it or it does not happen anymore.

    I am just going to be more aware. Thanks!

    Lynne

    1. Hi, Lynne. You make me wonder if stress could bring on a floater, at any age. I’ve had a lot of stress in my life, during the weeks leading up to getting mine.

      About the flashes of light, my optometrist said they could indicate a detached retina. If you aren’t having them anymore, you may be fine, but you might want to have an eye doctor take a look.

      My doctor said the flashes to be concerned about are very noticeable. Yeah, it’s always good to be aware of these things.

      Take care,

      Jen

  3. I love this guide, Jen. I had no ideas that floaters were so common.

    I also didn’t know that they aren’t always as dangerous as people make them out to be. If I ever come across someone that needs help with this, I know where to send them.

    It looks to me that you know exactly what you’re talking about. I can see it in your writing, so thanks a bunch 🙂

    Good luck, btw!

    -Brandon

    1. Hi, Brandon. Yeah, I know several people who’ve had floaters, but they usually aren’t very bothersome.

      I can see mine whenever I chose to look at it, or in very bright light, but I am learning to ignore it most of the time.

      My eye doctor said when you get one it is either very serious – because your retina may detach – or it is very minor and just a nuisance. She said it is always a good idea to get it checked, either way.

      Thanks for visiting. Best wishes!

      Jen

  4. I had my first floater about 6 months ago. I went through the same thing you did. I hate mine too. I have two worms, no spiders. lol. They float back and forth when I move my eyes. I wish I could say I got used to them. I have in a way, but they are annoying. Like you, I’m happy it’s nothing more serious. As a health coach, I’ve looked into writing a blog on this subject as well! I really enjoyed your take on it and your suggestions to take eye supplements and eat lots of plant foods are spot on. Thanks so much for reminding me that it’s not that big of a deal. 🙂

    1. Hi, Linda. I’m sorry to hear you have one too. Yeah, they are pretty annoying in bright light and when you have to move your eyes around a lot. I’ll probably never get completely used to mine, but I have learned to ignore it most of the time. I hope yours gets better and good luck with the coaching and writing.

      Take care,
      Jen

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