What Are Eye Floaters?

Have you ever noticed small black shapes floating or drifting in your field of vision? These are called eye floaters, and they may come and go as you get older. Floaters are a common and often harmless part of aging. However, they may also indicate a more serious eye concern and should be evaluated by an eye care professional.

Have you ever noticed small black shapes floating or drifting in your field of vision? These are called eye floaters, and they may come and go as you get older. Floaters are a common and often harmless part of aging. However, they may also indicate a more serious eye concern and should be evaluated by an eye care professional.

Floaters may occur in a variety of shapes and sizes, including: * Spots * Dots * Rings * Specks * Threads * Cobwebs * Squiggly lines

You’re more likely to see eye floaters when looking at something white like a piece of paper, a clear or cloudy sky, or your computer screen if it has a light-colored background. Floaters tend to appear in your peripheral or side vision but can also appear in your central vision.

What Causes Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters are the result of changes in the vitreous, which is the clear, gel-like substance that fills the eye. Located between the lens and the retina, the vitreous helps the eye keep its shape and provides nutrients.

As you age, the vitreous becomes less gel-like and more liquid in consistency. It begins to shrink and gradually pull away from the retina in a normal process called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). PVD can cause proteins in the vitreous to clump together and move around. These clumps cast shadows on the retina which are perceived as eye floaters.

So, when you see floaters, you’re not actually seeing the protein clumps. Rather, you’re seeing shadows made by the clumps as they pass in front of the macula, which is in the center of the retina. The retina is the light-sensing structure in the back of the eye. It sends signals to the brain to process the images that you see.

Why Do I Have Floaters?

Posterior vitreous detachment due to age is the most common cause of eye floaters. However, the condition can also be caused by other factors, including certain diseases, injury, or trauma to certain parts of the eye.

You may be at a higher risk for eye floaters if you’re 50 or older, nearsighted (can’t see clearly far away without correction), have diabetes, or have had cataract surgery.

Sometimes floaters are due to more serious eye problems, such as: * Uveitis – Uveitis is inflammation of the middle layer of your eye, often caused by an infection. * Retinal tear – This can occur when the vitreous pulls away from the retina, creating a tear. It can increase the risk of retinal detachment. * Retinal detachment – With this condition, the retina is pulled away from its normal place in the back of the eye causing a sudden shower of floaters, flashes of light, or a shadow coming over your vision. It is a medical emergency. * Bleeding in the eye – This may be caused by conditions such as retinal detachment and diabetic retinopathy, which is an eye disease that impacts the blood vessels in the retina.

Can Eye Strain Cause Floaters?

Eye strain doesn’t cause floaters. Eye strain can happen when you spend a lot of time focusing on something like your smartphone or computer screen. The lens in your eye changes shape when certain muscles contract, allowing you to focus clearly on an object at a close distance. When you focus on something for a long period of time, these muscles don’t have a chance to rest. This can cause the eye to become fatigued.

When Should I Worry About Floaters?

Eye floaters are a normal part of the aging process for many people. But since they can be associated with other serious eye concerns, there are situations when you should see your eye doctor for an eye exam: * Call your eye doctor if you experience a sudden increase in the number of floaters, if floaters occur with flashes of light, or if you have a dark shadow or blurriness in your central or peripheral vision. These could be symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment, which can lead to severe or permanent vision loss without prompt treatment. * Seeing bright flashes of light in your vision, especially when not associated with external light sources, is another warning sign. This may indicate that the vitreous is shrinking and pulling on the retina, which can potentially lead to tears in the retina or a detached retina. * Floaters are most common in people over 50. If you’re younger than 50 and notice floaters, it’s a good idea to go to the eye doctor. This could be a sign of eye inflammation or other eye conditions that need to be treated.

What Treatments Are Available?

Eye floaters may be distinctly visible from a few weeks to several months, and some floaters may not truly disappear. They can be bothersome but generally don’t need treatment if they’re caused by the natural process of the vitreous gradually pulling away from the retina. If another eye condition (such as diabetic retinopathy or a retinal tear) is causing the floaters, your eye doctor will treat the underlying condition first.

If floaters are significantly getting in the way of your daily activities, your eye care provider can discuss one of the treatments listed below.


A vitrectomy is a type of eye surgery that removes the vitreous gel from the eye. After the vitreous is removed, the eye surgeon may replace it with a solution such as silicone oil or sterile salt water. In some cases, a gas bubble may be used. This helps the eyeball maintain its shape and the retina stay in place.

Laser Vitreolysis

Laser vitreolysis is another way to treat floaters and offers a less invasive approach. To perform this procedure, an eye surgeon uses a laser to target and dissolve eye floaters within the vitreous. People who have had floaters for two months or more without improvement may be considered for this procedure.

Can I Prevent Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters that happen due to age generally cannot be prevented. If you have a chronic illness that might cause floaters, like diabetes, managing your illness may help reduce your risk of experiencing this eye condition.

In many cases, eye floaters are a harmless, natural part of the aging process. Call your eye doctor if you notice sudden changes in the number, appearance, or behavior of floaters. If you have additional symptoms such as flashes of light, a dark shadow over your vision, or blurry vision, this could indicate a retinal detachment, which is a medical emergency.

Regular eye exams are also essential for maintaining good eye health and catching potential vision problems early, when they are often most treatable.