The View On Cataracts

The eye has a lens that focuses light on the retina, which functions as an ocular movie screen. Images reaching the retina are then sent to the brain for processing. Cataracts cause the lens to lose clarity, resulting in blurry or faded vision. Typically age-related, the disease worsens over time and can lead to temporary blindness.

Like floating in air

Floaters are dark objects trapped within the eye that sometimes move across the field of vision. A floater can manifest in many different ways, from specks to webs or squiggly lines. These objects move with the eye but continue to float even after the eye stops moving. Each spot is usually a piece of gel-like fluid or fibers that clump together over time. Floaters exist in the vitreous, a clear liquid that helps the eye maintain a spherical shape.

Kicking cataracts to the curb

At present time, the only way to deal with cataracts is through a surgical procedure. An ophthalmologist makes an incision on the eye’s surface, using a small device to break up and remove the cataract. To restore clear vision, the surgeon then places an artificial lens into the eye. This artificial intraocular lens is designed to restore clear sight as long as no other medical conditions are present.

Does cataract surgery lead to floaters?

Cataract surgery is a minimally invasive procedure, but still disturbs the delicate nature of the eye. Because of this, patients may be more likely to develop floaters after having the procedure. There are three main reasons why floaters can be present after removing a cataract.

Hidden in plain sight

Perhaps most commonly, a patient’s floaters existed before the surgery took place. Cataracts can grow slowly over several years. With the gradual decrease in vision, floaters may simply have remained hidden behind a cloudy lens. When clear sight is restored following cataract removal, floaters are suddenly much more noticeable.

Shrinking vitreous

As the eye ages, the clear vitreous fluid shrinks and pulls away from the retina. This posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) can cause floaters to appear in the back of the eye. Cataract surgery can cause a shift in the vitreous and increase the likelihood of PVD happening. Floaters birthed from PVD tend to disappear with time, but larger pieces can remain indefinitely.

Leading to detachment

In exceptionally rare cases, a PVD can lead to a retinal tear or detachment. As the retina comes free, cells lose access to necessary oxygen and nutrients from blood vessels. If not treated immediately, these retinal issues can lead to permanent vision loss. Floaters are a common symptom of this type of retinal problem.

Signs you don’t want to see

Floaters are usually harmless but annoying to deal with. While the spots may not cause harm, the objects can be an indicator of a serious eye complication. Individuals experiencing flashes of light, a shadow across vision, or a grey curtain blocking sight should seek medical help quickly.

Taking care of floaters

Floaters caused naturally by PVD typically disappear in time and don’t require any treatment. However, larger floaters significantly affecting the field of vision may not dissipate without assistance. In these instances, a physician may be able to use a laser to break pieces into smaller chunks. A procedure called a vitrectomy can be used in worst-case scenarios to remove all vitreous and floaters from the eye.