What is asteroid hyalosis?

Asteroid hyalosis (AH) is a degenerative eye condition marked by a buildup of calcium and lipids, or fats, in the fluid between your eye’s retina and lens, called the vitreous humor. It’s commonly confused with synchysis scintillans, which looks very similar. However, synchysis scintillans refers to a buildup of cholesterol instead of calcium.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptom of AH is the appearance of small white spots in your field of vision. These spots are often hard to see unless you look very closely in proper lighting. In some cases, the spots might move, but they usually don’t affect your vision. Often, you may not have any symptoms. Your eye doctor will note this condition during a routine eye examination.

What causes it?

Doctors aren’t exactly sure why calcium and lipids build up in the vitreous humor. It’s sometimes been thought to happen alongside certain underlying conditions, including:

  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure

AH is most common in older adults and maybe a side effect of certain eye procedures. For example, a 2017 report described the case of an 81-year-old man who developed AH after having cataract surgery. However, this isn’t a common side effect of cataract surgery.

How is it diagnosed?

The calcium buildup in your eye caused by AH makes it harder for your doctor to check your eyes with a regular eye exam. Instead, they’ll likely dilate your pupils and use an instrument called a slit lamp to examine your eyes.

You may also have a scan on your eyes called optical coherence tomography (OCT). This scan allows your eye doctor to better visualize the layers of the retina in the back of the eye.

How is it treated?

AH usually doesn’t require treatment. However, if it does start to affect your vision, or you have an underlying condition that makes your eyes more vulnerable to damage, such as diabetic retinopathy, the vitreous humor can be surgically removed and replaced.

Living with asteroid hyalosis

Besides the appearance of small white spots on your vision, AH usually doesn’t cause any problems. For most people, no treatment is necessary. It’s important to continue to see your eye doctor for routine eye exams.