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Could That Spot in Your Eye be a Weiss Ring Floater?

It’s a mouthful to say, but Weiss ring floaters aren’t uncommon. Find out what it is and whether you should be concerned if you have them.

At some point in life, most people will experience visual floaters. Floaters are debris that float around in the vitreous humor, the gel-like substance that lies between the lens of the eye and the light sensitive retina. One cause of floaters is shrinkage of the vitreous humor of the eye with age – a process which causes tiny specks of collagen-like material to float around in the gel-like vitreous in the eye. These can be seen as solid, floating spots and threads when a person moves their eyes against a light background. These debris cast shadows on the retina which makes them look solid in appearance. One of the largest types of floaters is called a Weiss ring floater.

What is a Weiss Ring Floater?

A Weiss ring floater is a floater that’s larger in size – unlike the typical tiny, dot and string-like floaters that float in most people’s vision. A Weiss ring floater forms when the vitreous tissue that surrounds the optic nerve in the back of the eye separates from it and floats around freely in the vitreous humor – a process known as vitreous detachment.

Vitreous detachment, which also involves separation of the vitreous tissue from the retina, is a normal process that occurs in people over the age of fifty. When it takes place new floaters may appear, and a person can see flashes of light as the pulling of the vitreous during separation stimulates the light sensitive retinal tissue. Not everyone experiences a Weiss ring floater when the vitreous separates – although most people will see floaters and, sometimes, flashes of light over a period of several weeks to several months after vitreous detachment.

What Does a Weiss Ring Floater Look Like?

A Weiss ring is a large, ring-shaped floater that floats around in the eye and is usually seen more clearly against a light background. It may dart around with the movements of the eye, or move aimlessly back and forth in the vision when the eye is still – like most floaters. A Weiss ring floater is usually more disturbing than the average floater since it’s larger in size – and may be intimidating enough to send a person running to their eye doctor for an eye exam.

When a person develops a Weiss ring floater or new floaters, particularly if they’re large in number, it’s important to see an opthamologist. Seeing a Weiss ring is a sign that the vitreous has detached from the retina. Although a Weiss ring floater is benign, occasionally a small retinal tear occurs during detachment which can be vision threatening and needs immediate attention. Most vitreous detachments and Weiss ring floaters don’t lead to retinal tears, but it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to vision. Vitreous detachment is a normal process, but a retinal tear is an opthalmic emergency.

Does a Weiss Ring Floater Every Go Away?

Fortunately, yes. Most people learn to tune out floaters over time, but, a Weiss ring floater usually goes away on its own within a year or so.

The Bottom Line?

Weiss ring floaters are no more serious than other floaters, although when one appears it’s important to get a full eye exam to rule out a retinal tear.

References:

Medscape.com website. “Posterior Vitreous Detachment: Symptoms of Posterior Vitreous Detachment”

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