Eye Floaters

Eye Floaters

What are eye floaters?

Eye floaters are opaque spots or strands in a person's vision. Eye floaters tend to drift around the visual field as a person moves his or her eyes.

What causes eye floaters?

Eye floaters are usually due to age-related changes in the vitreous, a clear jelly-like substance within the eyeball. As we age, the vitreous loses its viscosity and gradually liquefies, allowing the small fibers within it to clump together. These fibers then cast a shadow on the retina, producing eye floaters.

Eye floaters can also be caused by:

  • Bleeding within the eye
  • Inflammation in the rear of the eye
  • A torn or detached retina

Occasionally the liquefied vitreous will fall away from the retina and collapse into the central part of the eye. This is a separate but entirely normal age-related condition called posterior vitreous detachment.

What are the symptoms of eye floaters?

The symptoms of eye floaters include:

  • Black or gray spots, specks, strands, strings or cobwebs in the visual field
  • Spots in the peripheral vision that quickly move away when directly looked at
  • Spots that are easily visible against a bright background, such as a plain white wall

Sometimes eye floaters can signal a medical emergency, such as a retinal tear or complete retinal detachment. Consult an ophthalmologist immediately if you experience:

  • Sudden appearance of many new floaters
  • Bright flashes of flight
  • Loss of peripheral vision

What are the risk factors for eye floaters?

Risk factors for eye floaters include:

  • Being over 50 years of age
  • Being nearsighted
  • Having diabetic retinopathy
  • Eye inflammation
  • Sustaining eye trauma
  • Cataract surgery complications

How are eye floaters treated?

Most eye floaters are not treated, as possible treatment risks outweigh the potential unpleasantness of minor eye floaters. New eye floaters become significantly less noticeable as patients adjust to their presence.

If eye floaters are so severe that they impair vision, Temple's ophthalmologists offer the following treatments:

  • Vitrectomy, the removal of the vitreous from the eye
  • Laser surgery to dissolve floaters

To schedule an appointment with a Temple ophthalmologist, click here or call 1-800-TEMPLE-MED (1-800-836-7536).