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Types of Eye Floaters

These are the main types of eye floaters:

  • Weiss ring floaters
  • Diffuse floaters
  • Cobweb or fibrous strand floaters

What Are Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters are small obstructions across the span of your visual field. They can take a range of different shapes and forms, commonly appearing as darkish spots, lines, or patterns. 

This phenomenon is natural and experienced by most individuals at some point, rarely requiring treatment. Eye floaters can be caused by head position and general postural alignment as well as fatigue.

Eye floaters can become more noticeable against homogenous background images, such as when looking at a solid-colored wall or the sky. When looking at complex visual images with multiple colors, it may not be possible to notice floaters easily because they will be processed as a component of that image complexity rather than identified as an obstruction to the visual field. 

Some people are also more genetically susceptible to eye floaters. There is little that can be done to prevent them from occurring in such cases. 

Eye floaters can also be related to underlying conditions that may warrant further examination by a doctor. They can be a sign of inflammation related to a condition like an autoimmune disorder, which can be treated.

What Are the Types of Eye Floaters?

There are three types of eye floaters, including the Weiss ring Floater, diffuse floater, and cobweb floater.

Weiss Ring Floater

This type of eye floater takes the shape of a large ring in the visual field. 

A Weiss Ring floater is caused by peripheral vascular disease, and it occurs when the vitreous cortex disconnects from the posterior wall of the eye cavity. In this process, the vitreous cortex also disconnects part of the fibrous vitreous cortex, which surrounds the optic nerve head. 

Retinal detachment can also lead to the development of this type of eye floater.

Diffuse Floater

A diffuse floater, also known as a cloud-like floater, is a naturally occurring type that comes with age and the natural degeneration of the optic nerve. 

This type of floater can be treated with vitreolysis, which is a painless and noninvasive medical procedure that is intended to eliminate the visual disruption that is caused by the floater. The aim of this procedure is to achieve a functional improvement in vision, as the underlying causes of this type of floater are not fully reversible. 

The underlying mechanism causing the age-related changes to the eye that are responsible for this type of floater involves the accumulation of a gel-like substance within the eyes, which liquifies and contracts. The vitreous begins to shrink with age, resulting in the clumping of the gels within the eye, preventing light from passing through. This process combines with the formation of collagen fibers in the vitreous, resulting in blocked vision in the retina.

Cobweb, or Fibrous Strand, Floater

A cobweb, or fibrous strand, floater, is among the most common types of floaters, and it is the most common type experienced by younger people. This type of floater appears as a thin and dense obstruction to the visual field accompanied by a pattern of dots that appear in a web- or net-like shape, such as a cobweb. 

Cobweb floaters do not typically impact vision to a severe degree. Treatment is rarely recommended by doctors for this type of floater because they commonly vanish on their own. However, cobweb floaters can be troubling to those who experience them, and treatment may be necessary if the problem persists. 

When to See a Doctor for Eye Floaters

If you are under the age of 40 and have not experienced an injury to your eye, it is unlikely that your eye floater is serious. It will probably go away on its own. 

Most eye floaters are not indicative of anything serious. Eye floaters can increase in frequency as a natural part of the aging process, and many people may not even notice them. Floaters may become easier to notice if you are feeling tired. 

However, you should see a doctor if your eye floaters persist and cause anything more than mild visual impairment. It may not be easy to determine the underlying cause of an eye floater. You should seek medical attention to determine if retinal or vitreous detachment is the underlying cause responsible for your symptoms. As with any medical condition, it is much better to be proactive.

References

  1. Floaters. National Eye Institute.

  2. Floaters and Flashes in the Eyes. (July 2020). NHS.

  3. Vitreous Floaters. (July 2022). StatPearls.

  4. Safety and Efficacy of YAG Laser Vitreolysis for the Treatment of Vitreous Floaters: An Overview. (February 2020). Advances in Therapy.

Last Updated November 1, 2022

Note: This page should not serve as a substitute for professional medical advice from a doctor or specialist. Please review our about page for more information.