Asteroid hyalosis is a fairly common condition where small calcium particles accumulate inside your eye. They don't usually cause symptoms that you would notice. You might only find out you have it when your doctor notices the calcifications during a routine eye exam.
This condition is usually benign. The particles are painless. They typically don't affect how well you can see or the health of your eyes. In rare cases, though, people develop vision problems connected to asteroid hyalosis.
What Is Asteroid Hyalosis?
Asteroid hyalosis in the eye is a condition that causes an accumulation of lipids and calcium in the vitreous humor of the eyeball. The vitreous humor is the liquid between your retina and the lens of your eye. Some people develop particles of fats and calcium that hang, suspended, in that liquid.
The particles are whitish in color and reflect light. The name "asteroid" was applied to the condition because the particles look like stars or asteroids in the eye. They aren't visible to the naked eye; your doctor will see them while examining your eyes with an ophthalmoscope.
If your doctor notices white spots in your eye, they will need to conduct a thorough examination to confirm that the cause is asteroid hyalosis and not a more serious problem with your eyes. They may dilate your pupils using special eye drops. This will allow them to see into the interior of your eye more clearly.
Asteroid hyalosis is fairly common. Some experts estimate that as many as 2% of the population will develop it, though it is more common among people over age 60. It often occurs only in one eye, not both.
What Are the Causes of Asteroid Hyalosis?
Experts aren't sure what causes asteroid hyalosis. There are no racial or ethnic groups that are more likely to get the condition. Your risk of developing it increases with age, and women are diagnosed more often than men.
Some researchers have noticed that asteroid hyalosis is more common in people who have conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Other studies, however, have failed to show a cause-and-effect relationship between the health conditions. If you have a chronic illness such as diabetes and your eye doctor notices symptoms of asteroid hyalosis, they may suggest conducting regular exams to ensure no additional problems develop.
What Are the Symptoms of Asteroid Hyalosis?
In most cases, asteroid hyalosis doesn't cause any symptoms. People don't experience changes to their vision, and there is no discomfort from the condition. You may learn you have the condition after your doctor notices the white specks in your eye during a routine exam.
Some people with asteroid hyalosis, however, report seeing transient spots in their vision sometimes known as floaters. These appear because fibers cast shadows across your retina that you can see. These spots are usually not bothersome.
If you notice more floaters than usual, flashing lights in one eye, or a change to your vision, you should call your doctor right away. Those symptoms can be a sign of an injury to your retina. This is a medical emergency, and you will need swift treatment to prevent vision loss.
What Is the Treatment for Asteroid Hyalosis?
Since asteroid hyalosis doesn't typically cause problems, there is no need to treat it. The condition doesn't become more serious over time, so there is nothing you need to directly do about it. Your eye doctor will track the progress of the condition over time.
If you have other eye issues in addition to asteroid hyalosis, your doctor may need to adjust your treatment plan accordingly. You should talk to your doctor about your asteroid hyalosis if you have been treated for any other eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy.
You can still get cataract surgery or laser vision correction if you have asteroid hyalosis. Those procedures can still be effective.
In rare cases, the particles in your eye become so dense that your vision is impaired. If this happens, your doctor can perform a procedure called a vitrectomy. Your doctor will remove the virtuous fluid and the particles. They can then replace the fluid with a synthetic gel. The particles don't usually reappear after a vitrectomy.
If your doctor diagnoses you with asteroid hyalosis, you should continue to have regular eye exams. Annual visits to an eye doctor help maintain your eye health overall and track the progress of particles in your eye. Meanwhile, if you experience vision changes, your doctor can prescribe glasses or other treatments to help you see clearly.