What Are Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters are small spots that drift through your field of vision.  They appear like black or gray specks, strings, or cobwebs that drift back and forth when you move your eyes.  Floaters are often more of a nuisance than a serious health concern.

Image Source: Nature Eye Care

How Do Floaters Occur?

Most floaters occur as you mature and as your eyes become more liquid.  The vitreous humor fluid (substance inside your eyes) has a gel-like consistency, but as we age, this begins to dissolve and can leave a watery center.  Some undissolved gel particles will occasionally move around in the more liquid center, which take on many shapes and sizes.  These particles cast tiny shadows on your retina, which appear in your field of vision as floaters.

On rare occasions, floaters can be so dense and numerous that they substantially affect vision.  In rare cases, a surgical procedure that removes floaters may be necessary.  A vitrectomy removes the vitreous gel with the floating debris, and the vitreous is replaced with a salt solution. However, there are risks associated with a vitrectomy, and it is an exceptionally rare procedure for this condition.

Image Source: All About Vision

If you notice a sudden change or increase in eye floaters, contact your eye doctor immediately, especially if you also see flashes of light or lose your peripheral vision.  These may be symptoms of an emergency, such as a retinal detachment or eye disease, and they require immediate attention.

Floaters can also result from:

  • Eye disease
  • Eye injury
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Eye tumors
  • Eye trauma
  • Near-sightedness
  • Stress

Serious eye disorders associated with floaters include:

  • Retinal detachment
  • Torn retina
  • Bleeding in the vitreous
  • Eye tumors
  • Vitritis – inflammation of the vitreous body

How Are Floaters Treated?

In most cases, no treatment is required as most eye floaters are harmless and fade over time.  However, in a percentage of patients an acute onset of floaters cause a retinal detachment, therefore it is important to see your eye doctor when you notice the floaters.  Only with a thorough examination through dilated pupils can doctors rule out more serious conditions.

If you are concerned about eye floaters, make an appointment with one of our eye doctors at Primary Eyecare today.  Our doctors are fully trained to diagnose and treat many ocular medical conditions.

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