What Causes Spots in The Eyes?
Patients often complain about spots in their eyes. The most common cause of eye spots are the floaters that accompany the degeneration of the fluid inside of the eye. Usually they are first noticed as the fluid (vitreous) transforms from a gel like consistency to a more of a liquid consistency. This allows bits of embryonic tissue and fibers to start moving around inside the eye. The brain and eye together are very adept at screening out small structures that are fixed, but when they start to move they start to be noticed. This is a normal aging process that may start as early as the age of twenty. Other causes of spots in the eye include inflammation inside the eye, bleeding inside the eye, migraine headaches, and multiple sclerosis.
Unusual Spots in The Eye
Some people have different types of floaters in their eyes. Asteroid hyalosis is a degenerative condition of the fluid inside the eye (vitreous Fluid) that results in small white spheres spread through the vitreous. These frequently appear to be in sheets or chains due to how they become enmeshed in the collagen fibrils that exist in the fluid inside the eye. The spheres are composed of calcium and phosphorous in a compound known as hydroxy lapatite.
What Causes Asteroid Hyalosis?
There is a higher incidence in males, and alcohol consumption and body weight seem to be correlated to some degree with the development of asteroid hyalosis. . Other factors that may be associated include diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There is some conjecture that it may be more common in patients with the eye diseases retinitis pigmentosa and leber’s optic atrophy due to a mutations in the lecithin retinol acyltransferase gene. Asteroid hyalosis reportedly occurs in about one in a hundred people and the incidence increases with elderly age, mostly it is seen after the age of 60. In our Fort Collins eye doctors office it seems to be a little more uncommon that this. It rarely interferes with vision and usually the patient is unaware that they have an eye full of floating spheres. Most of the time it is present in only one eye (80-90%).
How Asteroid Hyalosis Can Cause Problems
Unusual spots in the eye can create problems. Although rare, there are a few cases where the fluid in the back part of the eye has prolapsed into the front chamber of the eye some time after cataract surgery bringing the spheres of calcium and phosphorous with it. This can be confused with inflammation and/or eye cancer that has spread.
Other reported problems from Asteroid Hyalosis include calcification of silicone lens implants after cataract surgery. There can be abnormal adherence of the vitreous fluid to the retina. Since the spheres reflect back any light used to examine the back of the eyes it can be difficult to view eye diseases when Asteroid Hyalosis is present. OCT (Optical Computed Tomography) offers a good solution to see the back of the eye when visualization is compromised by asteroid hyalosis. If your eye doctor is following you for a retinal condition they may want to obtain OCT images on a regular basis.
Occasionally visual acuity will be significantly reduced by Asteroid Hyalosis. A vitrectomy (removal of the fluid inside the eye) can help restore the visual acuity.
If You Have Unusual Spots in The Eye due to asteroid hyalosis there is little cause for concern. The majority of the time it is just a very unusual condition to look at but looking through it usually passes without awareness or disruption of vision. Just plan on an annual eye health examination and rest assured your eyes actually are pretty healthy!