Vitreous opacity or Mouches Volantes in the eye

Vitreous opacity or Mouches Volantes is the appearance of dots and threads in front of the eye. This can be further enhanced, especially in a light environment. Most people are familiar with floaters in the eye, but sometimes there can be so many that vision is seriously impaired. A number of treatments are possible.

Dots, threads and particles in the eye

Everyone suffers from it sometimes: they see dots, threads or dust in their eyes. These can be followed and eventually disappear from view. Sometimes several come in succession. Although it seems as if the wires or dots can be followed, it is the other way around: they follow the eye movements. Because the eye moves very quickly, the wires and dots follow the eye in a slow motion.

Other names for the suspended particles in the vitreous are floaters.

Are there really wires in the eye?

Between the lens and the retina is the vitreous body or the vitreous humor. This moisture consists of approximately 99 percent water. The vitreous is clear so that light can pass through the lens to the retina. Sometimes the vitreous contains free-floating particles of residual materials from broken down cells, or protein structures. Protein structures can fold themselves, often creating a different shape. Multiple dark spots may appear.

In principle, these free-floating particles would not be noticed by the eye. However, these particles cast a shadow on the retina that is not the same as the position where they are at that moment. As a result, the brain cannot process this image. Normally, such shadows are removed from conscious perception, but due to the incorrect position, the brain is unable to do so. This allows us to see the free-floating particles, or rather, we see the shadows.

What do you see?

With eye movements you see that dots, sometimes black, and wires move in front of your eye. When you keep staring at one point, these particles barely move. They follow the movements of the eye. This happens in a delayed reaction. Because the high makes very fast movements without you being aware of it, a wire or dot may “swim” in a different direction than the direction you are looking.

The threads and dots look like they are floating or swimming. They are usually transparent, but can sometimes appear black in color. The shape can vary from short and round to elongated like a ribbon. The latter most resemble fabric threads. These wires and dots are clearly visible, especially when looking at a light and smooth background, such as the blue sky. The particles are also clearly visible when lying on the back: the floaters then sink into the vitreous humor and collect near the macula. When the pupil is greatly reduced, the effect of visibility is enhanced. The pupil can be reduced by looking through a very small opening: the smaller the opening, the smaller the bulge becomes. A needle head is usually used for this. With this method you will often also observe other stripes: these are the shadows of the blood vessels in the eye.

Vitreous opacity: cause and treatment

Vitreous opacity or Mouches Volantes is a fairly normal and harmless phenomenon. Most people experience these symptoms at some point. Some people suffer so much from it that they see it continuously and it hinders their vision considerably.

Vitreous opacities may remain stable or worsen. It rarely decreases. However, the brain adapts so that it is less noticed. This is the same as someone who lives next to a railway line: he no longer even hears the passing train. The brain excludes common images and sounds as conscious perception.

A number of factors promote the occurrence of floaters: diabetes, old age when the vitreous body shrinks, vitreous humor detaches from the retina, an eye infection or damage to the eye. In case of serious complaints, the ophthalmologist will examine the retina for tears. If no cracks are present, treatment is not necessary. If the complaints really hinder vision, this can be treated with laser therapy. This will remove the large floats. The vitreous can also be removed: although this is not recommended, it does happen occasionally. The vitreous is removed during this treatment and replaced with another fluid.

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