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Questions about Floaters
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Questions about Floaters

Hi there.

I’m new to the forum, and have scanned over some general information that I’ve found on here, but just wanted to ask a personal question about my own floaters.

I’ve done a little bit of research this morning, and would say I’m fairly familiar with what they essentially are.  I first noticed my floaters several years ago…  I would say probably while I was in my early to mid teens, and am now 21 years old.  I’ve read on a few different informational websites that often floaters can clear up or fade with time, but I haven’t noticed any visible difference in mine over the past 5+ years.  That is to say, they haven't really faded but they haven't gotten worse or more numerous since I first noticed them.

They aren’t very inhibitive, and I really only notice them when I think about them, or on rare occasion when I'm trying to read - and I read often.  For example, I haven’t noticed mine in probably a month now, but thinking about them today I can see them everywhere.

I have them in both eyes, however, and would say I have approximately 4 small dots in each eye as well as a larger, more prominent one in the left [like a large dot with a long “tail” on it].  

I have perfect natural vision as of a test I had a year and a half ago, and am confident that this isn’t a diabetes-related issue either.  

Basically, what I’d like to ask is: is the number of floaters I have [I’d say eight-to-ten noticeable in total, or thereabouts] a “normal” amount?  Is it something I should be worried about or just take as “one of those things”?  [I also have tinnitus in my right ear].  

I’m scheduled for an eye test in September, but was wondering if it’s actually the optometrist I should speak to this about or my doctor?

Sorry if this was a bit all over the place!

Just one further, as well.  My father-in-law had surgery to remove a cataract last year, and last week said that he now had what he described as "a black hair" in his vision, and seemed a little concerned that it could be a sign of diabetes.  From the research I've done today I have read that cataract surgery can cause them, but should I tell him to get it checked out anyway just to be on the safe side, rather than assuming?

Many thanks,
Victoria
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Avatar_f_tn
Oh, also, I should note that there are only two rather noticeable floaters, the rest are just specks that pass through my field of vision when I move my eyes around.
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Avatar_dr_m_tn
Hello Victoria,

First its not normal for a 21 year old to have tinnitus and if you have not had this evaluated by an otolaryngologist (Ear nose and throat physician) it is extremely important to do so.

Using a rough metric, about 20% of people have floaters in their 20's, half have floaters in their 50's and 70% have floaters in their 70's.  Like you I am nearsighted (and have tinnitus) and have had floaters since I was about age 10. The type of floaters you describe are very common. Thank goodness we learn to "tune them out".  Warnings of possible problems are sudden increase in floaters, (showers of floaters, "soot' like floaters in the eye), flashes or loss of peripheral vision. The firmer vitreous gel of a young person generally protects against retinal tears or detachment better than the more watery vitreous of an older person.

In my opinion both you and your father should see an ophthalmologist (a MD physician that provides full service comprehensive medical and surgical eye care) rather than an optometrist (a non-physician, limited service, non-comprehensive eye care provider). Your father (in law) needs to be sure that there is no diabetes in the eye. Diabetic retinopathy can cause bleeding in the eye and cataract surgery patients are at an increased risk of retinal detachments.

Also the cost of an eye examination with an Eye MD is generally not much higher than the more limited exam of an optometrist. Eye examinations by physicians (the ophthalmologist) are often covered by health insurance if there are medical problems like floaters, diabetes and cataracts.

JCH MD Eye Physician & Surgeon  (Ophthalmologist = Eye MD)
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi there,

Thanks for your quick response =)

Sorry, I'm not actually nearsighted, I don't wear glasses at all, but I have read that it's common in nearsighted people.  I’ll definitely tell my father in law about this information, as from talking to him it sounds as though he hasn’t really been informed about the potential issues [or, more likely, didn’t listen] and doesn’t seem to concerned.  Still, I’d rather us all be on the safer side.  

Really, thanks for your information.  I’ve looked on the internet and haven’t been able to find too much information so far as how common the Floaters are in younger people; most of it was just info on people over 55 and potential risk factors.  So everything that you’ve said is a big help to me, for a while I was wondering if having them in my teens was a bad sign.  But I’ll definitely get an appointment with an Opthalmologist.

On a note about my tinnitus, I did see an ENT around a year ago, when my doctor finally referred me.  I had a hearing test, which showed the affected ear had somewhat worse hearing than the other, but both were well within normal range.  After that I was referred for an MRI to rule out anything internal, such as thickening of nerves or growths, which came back all clear.  The man I saw who went over the MRI results with me looked at a loss when he read back to me that there was nothing abnormal whatsoever that they could see.  He sat before me looking rather puzzled about the whole thing before just shrugging and suggesting the hearing test in a year’s time to make sure my hearing isn’t deteriorating over time.  So I suppose it’s kind of an ongoing thing although the ENT department at my local hospital isn’t doing much, or at this point anything at all, to investigate the causes of the tinnitus and the pressure in my inner ear canal.

I apologise as the above paragraph was unrelated to the issue of the Floaters, but thought I would shed a little light.

Thanks again, you’ve been a big help,
Victoria
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Avatar_n_tn
I was in a similar situation you're in now.  When I was in high school, I started to notice that I had more floaters than usual.  I went to our family doctor and he said not to worry about it and they will go away on their own.  It gradually got worse and worse, so bad that I had to keep moving my eyes left and right to move the floaters to another spot in my eyes just so that I could read the chalk board.  Turns out, I had Uveitis.  It started with just a few floaters, then there were 100's of them in each eye.  The doctor said something in my body caused my eyes to become inflamed.  I was put on eye drops numerous times and had multiple cortizone shots under the eye ball.  None of this really got rid of the floaters, it just slowed them down from getting any worse.  I eventually had to get surgery on both of my eyes (10th & 11th grade).  They call the procedure a vitrectomy (i think).  They took out the vitreous and replaced it with a salene (spelling?) solution.  If I were you, I would go see an eye doctor and see what they say.  He may put you on eye drops and since you have very few floaters, they might go away.  
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Avatar_dr_m_tn
Hello madefromconcentrate.  I personally started to have floaters at age 10 as I have noted before in this forum. In children floaters often appear for a different reason the most common being that small bits of protein can remain in the eye from when it was being formed in the embryo development. Roughly 10% of children from birth to age 20 have floaters without disease, the figure goes up 10% per decade so 30 % of adults in their 30's have floaters.

The floaters like Browning 1 had (thanks for the post) are not "normal floaters" which are like several small strings, dots, amoebas, threads that move with the eye.  Vitrectomies are not done for normal floaters.

By the way I have tinnitus also. The American Tinnitus Association website is great  www.ata.org and has a lot of information about cause and treatment. More is known about cause than treatment. My tinnitus in the left ear is from a childhood of hunting without proper hearing protection. Many cases of tinnitus om young people now is caused by noise damage from personal listening electronic devises (DVD players, MP3 players, etc).

JCH MD Eye MD
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