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Squiggly Lines (or Floaters) in the Eyes
Floaters, or "squiggly lines", are deposits of various size, shape, consistency, refractive index, and motility within the eye's normally transparent vitreous humor. They may be of embryonic origin or acquired due to degenerative changes of the vitreous humour or retina. The perception of floaters is known as myodesopsia, or less commonly as myiodeopsia, myiodesopsia, or myodeopsia. When observed subjectively, floaters are entoptic phenomena characterized by shadow-like shapes that appear singly or together with several others in one's field of vision. They may appear as spots, threads, or fragments of cobwebs, which float slowly before one's eyes.
Latin-derived Muscae volitantes (meaning 'flying flies'), or French-derived mouches volantes, are a specific type of floater consisting of small spots whose presence is normal and attributed to minute remnants of embryonic structures in the vitreous humour.
Description of Vitreous Floaters
Floaters are particularly noticeable when looking at a blank surface or an open monochromal space, such as blue sky. Despite the name "floaters", many of these specks have a tendency to sink toward the bottom of the eyeball, in whichever way the eyeball is oriented; the supine position tends to concentrate them near the fovea, which is the center of gaze, while the textureless and evenly lit sky forms an ideal background against which to view them.
Floaters are not uncommon, and do not cause problems for most people. However, floaters are more than a nuisance and a distraction to those with severe cases, especially if the spots seem to constantly drift through the field of vision. The shapes are shadows projected onto the retina by tiny structures of protein or other cell debris discarded over the years and trapped in the vitreous humour. Floaters can even be seen when the eyes are closed on especially bright days, when sufficient light penetrates the eyelids to cast the shadows. It is not, however, only elderly people who suffer from floaters; they can certainly become a problem to younger people, especially if they are myopic. They are also common after cataract operations or after trauma. In some cases, floaters are congenital.
Floaters have been known to catch and refract light in ways that somewhat blur vision temporarily until the floater moves to a different area. Many times they trick the sufferer into thinking they see something out of the corner of their eye that really is not there. Most sufferers are able to, with time, learn to ignore their floaters. For people with severe floaters it is nearly impossible to completely ignore the large masses that constantly stay within almost direct view. Some sufferers have noted a decrease in ability to concentrate while reading, watching television, walking outdoors, and driving, especially when tired.
Causes of Squiggly Lines
Posterior vitreous detachments and retinal
Regression of the hyaloid artery
Other common causes of squiggly lines
Other causes for floaters include cystoid macular edema and asteroid hyalosis. The latter is an anomaly of the vitreous humour, where by calcium clumps attach themselves to the collagen network. The bodies that are formed in this way move slightly with eye movement, but then return to their fixed position.
Tear film debris
Increasing background illumination or using a pinhole to effectively decrease pupil diameter may allow a person to obtain a better view of his or her own floaters. The head may be tilted in such a way that one of the floaters drifts towards the central axis of the eye. In the sharpened image the fibrous elements are more conspicuous. (If the pinhole is kept moving slowly in small circles, the same technique evokes an interesting entoptic effect known as the vascular figure, which is a view of the blood vessels within one's own eye.)
Another treatment is laser vitreolysis. In this procedure a YAG laser is focused onto the floater and in a quick burst vaporizes the structure into, presumably, a less dense and not as noticeable consistency. This procedure can be time-consuming and there is no consensus as to how completely effective it is. One study found laser vitreolysis "to be a safe but only moderately effective primary treatment conferring clinical benefit in one third of patients".
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