Floaters are another name for the small, gray or black, cobweb-like disturbances seen darting around in the eyesight. Seemingly out of nowhere, floaters may abruptly appear, but then refuse to go away once they have arrived. In the absence of flashes of light or a more significant visual impairment, floaters are often more of a nuisance than a serious health concern.

Symptoms of Eye Floaters

Eye floaters move as the eyes move. They generally appear to dart away when you try to focus on them. Eye floaters can appear in many different shapes, such as:

  • → Black or gray dots
  • → Squiggly lines
  • → Threadlike strands, which can be knobby and semi-transparent
  • → Cobwebs
  • → Ring shaped


The fluid in back of the eye is called the vitreous humor. This thick, clear, jelly-like fluid, which is normally without distortion, sometimes develops pockets of water and other disturbances that cause visual distortions. These floaters in the vitreous fluid move around in the eye much like the fake snow particles in a winter snow globe, though fewer in number. Floaters can significantly improve once they have formed, and many people are less bothered by them as time goes on. Vitreous floaters commonly break up into smaller particles over months and years, which helps make them less noticeable as well. However, some larger floaters never seem to subside and individuals continue to be bothered by them over time.

Floaters are a common occurrence in the eye, particularly as the eye matures. The development of floaters is facilitated in a myopic eye for the same reason that retinal detachments are more common—the length of the eye is once again to blame. A thick, clear fluid in the eye, called vitreous humor, is firmly attached at the back and also toward the very front of the eye. In between, the vitreous fluid is only loosely attached. The attachment at the front of the eye is stronger than the one at the back, so stretching of the eye in myopia sometimes causes the attachment at the back of the eye to become loose. This is called a vitreous detachment. After the vitreous detaches, it usually leaves distortions and aberrations in the vitreous fluid causing “noise” in the fluid, often referred to as floaters.

Treatment of Eye Floaters

Provided that there are not also flashes of light occurring in the eye, floaters are relatively harmless, but they can be extremely disturbing and frustrating. Though there is no cure or treatment, floaters often become less noticeable and bothersome over many years for most people. Floaters vary in size and shape from a minimal, barely visible floater to a large prominent floater that never seems to go away.

When to Seek Medical Attention for Eye Floaters

If you only have a few eye floaters that don’t change over time, it usually does not indicate a serious eye problem. On the other hand, it’s important to see your eye doctor at Primary Eyecare if your floaters seem to be getting worse over time, especially if the changes are sudden. If you experience pain, flashes of light or any vision loss accompanied by eye floaters, this may indicate a more serious condition.

The doctors at Primary Eyecare are fully trained to diagnose and treat many ocular medical conditions. Schedule an appointment today if you’d like to meet with a doctor to discuss the health of your eyes.

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED: Copyright © 2011 | Dr. Joseph DiGirolamo, OD | The Big Book of Family Eye Care