What is Asteroid Hyalosis?
Asteroid hyalosis is a common condition affecting the vitreous jelly inside of the eye. It occurs when there are small particles floating in the vitreous. These small, shiny particles are made up of calcium. Asteroid hyalosis particles can make someone see “floaters”, which are floating spots in their vision. Having asteroid hyalosis is not concerning, because it’s a harmless condition that does not affect the health of the eye. This condition does not require any treatment. An eye doctor can detect asteroid hyalosis by dilating the eyes with eye drops.
- Asteroid hyalosis is a condition where small calcium particles float inside the vitreous, the jelly-like fluid that fills your eye.
- Asteroid hyalosis usually does not cause any symptoms, but some people may see “floaters” moving around in their vision.
- Asteroid hyalosis is a benign condition and does not require any treatment.
Understanding Asteroid Hyalosis
Asteroid Hyalosis is a common, benign condition of the eye. Approximately 1 in 200 people have asteroid hyalosis. It occurs when calcium particles are present in the vitreous humor. Vitreous humor is the gel-like fluid that fills up the eye and gives the eye its volume. The calcium soap particles that cause asteroid hyalosis are very small, shiny, and yellow-colored. They look like bright yellow stars or asteroids in the sky, which gives the condition its name. When these calcium particles are suspended inside of the vitreous gel, the individual may notice that they see “floaters” moving around in their eye. Asteroid hyalosis tends to affect only one eye, so the floaters are only noticeable in the affected eye. These floaters can appear as annoying specks that move around when looking in different directions. Asteroid hyalosis tends to occur in people over 60 years old.
The cause of asteroid hyalosis is unknown. Various clinical studies have shown the association of asteroid hyalosis with systemic conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high calcium levels. However, systemic medical conditions like diabetes usually affect both eyes because they are present throughout the whole body. Given that only one eye typically has asteroid hyalosis, it’s more likely that these medical conditions have little involvement in causing asteroid hyalosis.
Asteroid hyalosis occurs when the vitreous humor inside of the eye develops small, white, shiny calcium particles that attach to the collagen inside of the vitreous humor. Research has suggested that asteroid hyalosis may be caused by age-related degeneration of the eye’s structures. Asteroid hyalosis does not affect the normal functioning of the eye. There is no risk of vision loss with asteroid hyalosis.
Asteroid hyalosis happens when calcium soap particles are present inside the eye. Studies show that the asteroid particles are made of calcium phospholipids. They stain with Alcian blue dye when put under the microscope. X-ray microanalysis also shows that phosphate is a major component.
Asteroid hyalosis should not be confused with another eye condition called Synchysis Scintillans. Synchysis Scintillans also involves particles floating around in the vitreous jelly of the eye. However, the particles that cause Synchysis Scintillans are cholesterol particles. In contrast, the particles that cause Asteroid hyalosis are calcium particles. Synchysis Scintillans can be differentiated from Asteroid hyalosis during a dilated eye examination. In Synchysis Scintillans, the tiny cholesterol particles sink to the lower part of the eye because of gravity. In Asteroid hyalosis, the tiny calcium particles are suspended throughout the upper and lower part of the eye. Synchysis Scintillans also affects both eyes, whereas Asteroid hyalosis only affects one eye.
Asteroid hyalosis can be diagnosed by an eye doctor with a dilated eye exam. The doctor will put eye drops into the eyes to dilate the pupils. The pupils become large, which allows the doctor to see clearly into the back of the eye. An examination of the vitreous and retina will show the presence of asteroid hyalosis. There will be bright, shiny yellow particles floating inside of the eye. These shiny particles will be stuck inside the clear jelly of the eye, called the vitreous. The calcium soaps will be throughout the vitreous, and they will not sink to the bottom of the eye. Asteroid hyalosis gives the inside of the eye a glittery appearance. Asteroid hyalosis will usually only be diagnosed in one eye.
Asteroid hyalosis usually does not cause any symptoms. Most people would not realize that they have asteroid hyalosis unless their eye doctor tells them. However, some people may notice the presence of asteroid hyalosis in their eyes. The main symptom of asteroid hyalosis is “floaters”. Floaters are tiny shadows or shapes that appear in the vision. They may be more noticeable against a bright background, such as when looking at a white wall, a computer screen, or the sky.
Usually, asteroid hyalosis is not treated because it is an unremarkable condition that does not affect the health of the eye. However, some people with asteroid hyalosis may be very bothered by seeing these “floaters” all of the time. In these cases, the eye doctor may recommend a vitrectomy, a surgical procedure where the vitreous jelly is removed from the eye. Vitrectomy surgery has risks and can permanently reduce vision. It is usually not recommended to get vitrectomy surgery for asteroid hyalosis because the risk of the surgery outweighs its benefits. The best way to manage asteroid hyalosis is to have the condition monitored every year with a dilated eye exam.