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What Are Those Floating Stringy Things in Our Vision?

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Have you ever stared into space, maybe even with your eyes closed, and noticed little worm-like, floaty or speckly things in your vision?

The little squiggly lines are called floaters. Apparently somewhere around 70% of people experience this, or report that they experience it.

Ocular science explains that floaters are in fact shadows cast by objects that lie inside the gel like, transparent substance that composes most of the human eye’s interior. Vitreous humor is what the gel is called, and it plays a role in maintaining the round shape of the eyeball.

Focused light must pass through this vitreous humor after the lens, in order to reach the back of the eye where the retina is. The vitreous humor contains proteins and common things like that but it is mostly water.

What happens is, proteins of that vitreous gel substance clump together a little bit, so when we see floaters they are actually shadows cast by little clumped together protein particles. A tiny amount of light in our vision is blocked by these strings of proteins, and we are seeing tiny translucent shadows in our eyes.

Some of these stringy things we see in our vision stay permanently in one spot, and others drift around in our vision as most people can observe.

Other more severe forms of this phenomena exist. For instance, hemorrhages in a person’s eye can cause floaters when blood enters the vitreous. A smoky kind of appearance in a person’s vision could occur and quickly resolve, or not.

As people age, floaters can appear as their vitreous gel naturally shrinks. These shapes in a person’s vision usually take on the appearance of cobwebs.

While closed eye visuals are a completely different phenomena, one might remember being a child and wondering what those floaty things are. Or at least, that’s when I remember wondering what floaters were.


Image credit: Science ABC

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