What Are Eye Floaters? Why These Specks Appear, And When To See A Doctor If You Have Them

Date June 19, 2018

What are eye floaters?

Have you noticed specks, lines, or dots floating in your field of vision? These are called eye floaters. To understand what floaters really are, let’s look at the anatomy of the eye. Your eyeballs are filled with the vitreous, a translucent substance with gel-like consistency that maintains the shape of your eyes and allows light to pass through them. Floaters appear when tiny clumps form inside the vitreous and cast shadows on your retina.

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Floaters are very common, especially in older people. In most cases, they are merely a slight annoyance. But there are situations in which floaters can be a sign of a serious problem in the eye that requires prompt treatment to save your vision.

READ ALSO: 8 Signs That You Need To Schedule An Appointment With An Ophthalmologist Right Now

Why do eye floaters appear?

In the vast majority of cases, floaters result from age-related changes in the vitreous. As you age, the substance inside your eyeballs becomes more liquid and shrinks. In the process, tiny fibers in the vitreous can stick together and appear as floaters.

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Other, more serious causes of floaters include the following:

  • eye infection;
  • bleeding in the eye;
  • retinal tear;
  • retinal detachment.

In these cases, prompt treatment is needed to prevent irreversible vision loss.

Sometimes, floaters can appear after eye surgery.

When to seek medical help if you have floaters

In most cases, floaters aren’t a cause for concern. But you should see your doctor or an eye specialist as soon as possible if:

  • you have many floaters that appeared suddenly;
  • floaters occur along with flashes of light;
  • there’s a loss of side vision;
  • you have eye pain;
  • floaters and other symptoms developed after eye surgery or eye injury.

READ ALSO: 7 Alarming Signs Of A Blood Clot In Your Eye, And Why It Is So Dangerous

Who is more likely to get floaters?

Floaters are more common in the following groups of people:

  • individuals aged 50 and older;
  • people with diabetes;
  • near-sighted people;
  • those who have undergone eye surgery or sustained eye trauma.

How are eye floaters treated?

Eye floaters rarely need treatment, unless they are caused by something serious and/or interfere with vision.

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If you have age-related floaters that don’t block your vision, you’ll have to just get used to them. Moving your eyes up and down can help get them out of your vision field, even if temporarily.

In other cases, treatment depends on the cause. Say, if there are many floaters and they prevent you from seeing well, vitrectomy may be an option. During this procedure, an ophthalmologist removes the vitreous and fills the eye with saline solution. Vitrectomy isn’t used unless potential benefits of this procedure outweigh the risks. Possible risks include bleeding, retinal tears, and cataract.

Source: National Eye Institute, Mayo Clinic, Harvard Health, WebMD

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This article is solely for informational purposes. Do not self-diagnose or self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for any harm that may result from using the information provided in the article.