Eye floaters are tiny shadows that can appear in a person’s vision. They often show up as gray or black specks or scribbles floating in your field of vision. Floaters move with your eyes and tend to dart away when you try to look directly at them. They can also continue to drift a bit when you stop moving your eyes.

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What do eye floaters look like?

Floaters can look like different things to different people. You might see floaters that look like:1

  • Clouds
  • Squiggly lines
  • Amoebas
  • Dark spots
  • Small shadows

What causes eye floaters?

The bulk of your eye is made up of vitreous—a jelly-like substance that gives your eyes their round shape. As people age, the vitreous changes and becomes watery. Tiny pieces of the gel can break loose and form clumps. These clumps can cast shadows on your retina and appear as black floaters in your eye.2

Am I at risk for eye floaters?

This can happen at any age, but it’s more common after age 50. In fact, eye floaters are considered a normal part of the aging process. Younger people who are diabetic, very nearsighted or have had cataract surgery are also more likely to experience floaters. Inflammation, bleeding, retinal tears or injury can also cause them.3

Do I need treatment to get rid of eye floaters?

Generally, there is no need for alarm if you develop floaters. In most cases, no treatment is required, and the floaters will eventually sink out of your field of vision on their own.

However, if they continually interfere with your vision, your doctor may recommend surgery to help get rid of your eye floaters.

A vitrectomy is a surgical procedure that removes the loose clumps of vitreous. Because there is a risk for complications, this surgery is reserved for patients who are extremely bothered by the floaters.

Another option is using a laser to break up the floaters. This procedure also has some risks and does not always remove the floaters entirely.

In either case, your eye care specialist would be able to provide guidance on the best course of action. Remember, getting your regular eye health exam is always important.4

When should I worry about eye floaters?

For the most part floaters in the eyes are harmless. However, these sudden symptoms need immediate attention from an eye care professional:

  • A sudden increase in the number of eye floaters
  • Blood in the eye
  • Inflammation in the eye
  • Flashes that suddenly appear in your vision
  • A loss of peripheral vision (the far sides of your field of vision), which can appear like a curtain that begins to block your vision from the side

These sudden symptoms can be signs of a retinal tear or detachment. This is a very serious condition that could result in permanent vision loss. Early detection and treatment may help save your sight.5

More often, these floaters may be a less serious condition known as a vitreous detachment.

An eye doctor is the only one who can tell the difference between a retinal tear or vitreous detachment, so it’s important to see a specialist immediately if you notice any of the sudden symptoms listed.

Thankfully, floaters in your vision are more often an annoyance than a reason to be concerned. They become more common as you age, and except for some extreme cases, you simply learn to live with them.

But if you experience the sudden symptoms listed above, or find the floaters too distracting, please make an appointment to see your eye doctor right away.6

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Source

  1. “Eye Floaters & Flashes,” Cleveland Clinic, last accessed October 29, 2021, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14209-floaters--flashers.
  2. “Eye Floaters & Flashes.”
  3. “Eye Floaters & Flashes.”
  4. “Eye Floaters & Flashes.”
  5. “Eye Floaters & Flashes.”
  6. “Eye Floaters & Flashes.”