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Photo Credit: Ivey Ingalls-Rubin

Daily Strange: What are those strange little things floating in your eyeballs?

Written by Ivey Ingalls-Rubin, Staff Writer

Have you ever been minding your own business, not paying too much attention to anything in particular, and noticed a strange little worm-like speck casually drifting in and out of your field of vision? Those distracting little squiggles are actually called “floaters,” and about 70% of the human population has experienced them. Well, what exactly are they?

Floaters, believe it or not, are merely shadows cast by various objects in the clear, gel-like matter that makes up the majority of your eyeball. This matter is called vitreous humor and one of its jobs is to help maintain the eye’s round like shape. Once light passes through the lens of your eye, is has to then go through the vitreous humor so it may reach the retina located at the back of the eye. This part of your eye is mostly water but there are also proteins and various other substances.

Basically, floaters are just proteins that have been clumped together getting caught in the vitreous gel. These stringy clumps of protein, in turn, block light and therefore cast a shadow onto the retina. The floaters can appear to be translucent circles, tadpole-like structures, or clustered looking strings.

Floaters can be seen most easily if you gaze at something that is particularly bright, like a blue sky or a complete white sheet of paper. If you move your eyes, you’ll notice the floaters tend to tag along with that movement and may appear to take off across your eye if you try and focus on them.

While floaters are usually nothing more than an annoyance to most, at times they can hamper vision and may require some surgery. Most the time, however, floaters are just something we all have to get used to.


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