Seeing worms and webs? Expert says eye floaters eventually fade but get them checked first

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 18 — Tuan Amira Nadhirah Tuan Yunazri started noticing “tiny creatures” floating whenever she moved her head when she was seven years old.

At first, she kept rubbing her eyes to remove what she thought was debris but the strange shapes persisted.

“Sometimes, I would wonder if I was dizzy or whether I was just imagining the dots, worm-like threads or cobwebs that I saw.

“Now, I have got used to living with eye floaters although they can be quite annoying, especially when I am driving or reading,” the 28-year-old lawyer from Johor Baru said.

Eye floaters appear when the gel-like vitreous located between the lens and the retina begins to dissolve and becomes watery at the centre as we age.

Through a process called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), the peripheral vitreous gel breaks loose from the retina, leaving behind some undissolved gel particles or floaters.

Floaters are common, affecting seven out of 10 people of all ages and is generally more prevalent among individuals over the age of 50.

However, Pantai Hospital Ampang ophthalmologist Dr Sunita Padmanabhan noted a higher prevalence of eye floaters among younger people, citing a 2013 study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology.

The study, which surveyed 603 smartphone users, found that 76.3 per cent of respondents under 23 years old and 77.6 per cent of those aged between 24 and 34 years old had eye floaters.

“The advent of digital gadgets means we use our vision a lot more now, resulting in more strain on our eyes.

“Floaters, however, eventually settle down beneath your field of vision and become less noticeable unless you stare into a bright light or at the sky.

“So, it is extremely rare for those with floaters to undergo treatment unless the condition is caused by retinal damage,” Dr Sunita explained.

Near-sighted individuals, she said, may notice floaters at an early age because the elongated shape of their eyes increases the likelihood for PVD to happen.

Similarly, she said trauma induced to the eyes, such as cataract surgery, can also cause floaters.

Although floaters are typically harmless, Dr Sunita cautioned that they could be a warning sign of retinal tear or detachment that could potentially lead to loss of vision.

In such cases, she said the retina must be reattached as soon as possible to restore eye function and avoid permanent blindness.

“Get your eyes checked immediately if the number of floaters increases suddenly or if you see light flashes (photopsia). Photopsia occurs if your retina is tugged, torn or detached.

“Otherwise, floaters are harmless. So, the best advice is to try and ignore them and go about your life as you normally would.

“Trust me, you will see them less often.

“If in doubt, always consult your ophthalmologist and seek their advice. Prevention is better than cure," she said.