Although people don't tend to get them until at least the age of 50, it seems that just about everyone has had them at some point: those little, translucent blobs that float through your field of vision like a feather on the breeze. Known as "floaters," these seemingly insignificant specks tend to raise numerous questions, including: how do they form, and when should a doctor be seen about them?
To answer these and other questions, take a look at the life of one such floater, Bob I. Blob:
A Blob off the Old Blob
Bob is one laid back, little blob. He never has to worry about being attacked by the immune system because he came from the eye itself and was never labeled a "foreign object," and therefore a threat, by the white blood cells (aka leukocytes) patrolling the area. But where did he come from?
Well, Bob didn't just appear out of nowhere (although it can seem that way when he suddenly floats into view). His humble beginnings actually started way inside the eye, in the jelly-like vitreous humor that makes up most of the inner part of the eye. As people age, the vitreous humor shrinks and collagen fibers wear down, fraying in the process. Once upon a time, Bob was part of such a mass, but he soon broke away from the collagen collective and was, thereafter, free to roam about the inside of your eye all by himself.
As jelly-like as the vitreous humor is, it's still pretty fluid, and even the most microscopic movements, from blinking to focusing, cause that fluid to move around. So, Bob literally goes wherever the tides will take him, and that's how he winds up horning in on your view of the perfect sunset. As he floats along, if he passes between the retina and any light coming into the eye from the pupil, it's like a miniature eclipse, and before you know it-- Whoomp! There he is!
Movin' on up... And out
Generally, floaters like Bob are content to just drift along without any regard for how they affect your vision. If Bob ever gets in the way of you seeing the big game, or your favorite movie, for example, blinking alone probably won't help. Floaters exist inside the eye, not on the surface, where they can be washed away by tears, or in the aqueous layer between the lens and iris that constantly circulates to lubricate the iris and help maintain focus.
The best way to get him to move along is to look up and down rapidly. This will get that vitreous fluid moving around, sending Bob to another part of your eye.
Bad News Blobs
Bob is a loner by nature, so if you see him on his own, chances are good that he's harmless and will disappear eventually. But various conditions can cause Bob to get too big for his britches, or bow to peer pressure and invite some friends along for the ride. If you see any of the following, then it's time to crash Bob's party and go see a doctor:
Unusual size - Bob should appear as a small, translucent balloon or thread in your vision. If he's so big that you have difficulty seeing, call your doctor or ophthalmologist, especially if you've suffered from a recent head injury. This might be a sign of on-going trauma.
"Meteor" effect - Bob's friends sometimes like to shoot off fireworks even when it's nowhere near the 4th of July or New Year's Eve. Call your doctor if you see what look like bunches of shooting stars appearing before your eyes and you're not outside looking up at the night sky. It's a sign that the vitreous fluid is pulling either on or away from the retina and might be a sign of a retinal tear or detachment.
Family reunion - As mentioned before, Bob is on his best behavior when he's alone, so if it looks like he's traveling in a herd, it could be anything from some extra collagen that broke loose to something more serious like a tear in the retina. Have your eyes checked just to be sure.
Bob and his ilk are destined to be a part of most people's lives at some point. As long as he and his friends don't annoy you or cause you pain, there's no reason why you can't coexist together peacefully.
Enjoy the view, and contact a company like Bucks-Mont Eye Associates for more information.