Have you ever noticed dark spots or specks in your vision? If so, you might have eye floaters. Eye floaters may be a harmless sign of aging or indicate severe vision problems (if they appear more frequently).
This article will explore the symptoms and causes of eye floaters. We’ll also talk about when it might be time for treatment and how to get rid of them.
What Are Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters are little dark spots that float and drift across your vision. They are most noticeable when looking at something bright, such as the sky or a light. You’ll probably see a floater at some point in your life. Most people will start seeing floaters between the ages of 50 and 70.
As you get older, the protein fibers that make up your vitreous (a gel-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye) get smaller and begin to clump together.
Once these particles stick to one another, they cast shadows on your retinas, which are what you see as dark spots in your vision. In other words, when you see eye floaters, you’re actually looking at shadows.
What Do Eye Floaters Look Like?
Floaters can come in various sizes, shapes, and even colors. At times they may appear to be tiny specks, dots, or circles. They may also appear as lines or look like cobwebs. Sometimes eye floaters are black or grey, but other times they can even be translucent or white. Sometimes floaters appear stationery, and other times they seem to drift about.
Why Do I See Floaters?
Eye floaters typically appear as your eyes change with age. However, sometimes eye floaters will indicate an underlying eye condition.
Causes of Eye Floaters
Eye floaters are related to your age or specific eye conditions. Can eye strain cause floaters? The answer is no. Although there are many eye conditions that can lead to eye floaters, eye strain isn’t one of them.
Some specific eye conditions or diseases that may cause you to see eye floaters include:
- Detached or torn (or otherwise damaged) retina
- Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD)
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Retinal infections
- Eye injury
- Eye surgery, such as cataracts surgery
- Eye tumor
- Inflammation and/or bleeding inside the eye
Are Floaters Dangerous?
Eye floaters themselves are usually not dangerous.
If you notice eye floaters, don’t panic—they’re typically just a part of the aging process. In most cases, they’re harmless and won’t interfere with your eyesight. Usually, you can still do everyday tasks like driving or reading without an issue. In fact, after a while, most people get used to eye floaters.
Eye floaters also tend to come and go, meaning you won’t always see them. They usually will become less noticeable in about six months.
With all that said, although floaters aren’t inherently dangerous, sometimes they can be a sign of an underlying problem that is dangerous (such as retinal detachment). And these underlying issues may need medical attention. When you notice new floaters, it’s always best to see your eye doctor for an exam. Your eye doctor will be able to determine if the floaters are of concern and will also be able to monitor them going forward.
When to Worry About Eye Floaters
Whether to worry about eye floaters really depends on the individual and the wellness of the eye. This is why keeping up with your eyes’ health is so important.
Yes, floaters are usually harmless, but if you suddenly notice lots of eye floaters or see them frequently, this may indicate you have an underlying eye disease or issue. Another thing to look out for is flashes of light. Both of these scenarios could be a sign of a detached retina, a retinal tear, or an eye disorder that can lead to blindness.
There are a number of signs related to floaters that may indicate a problem. If you experience any of these signs, see an optometrist right away. The signs to look out for include:
- A grey curtain or blurry area that covers some of your vision
- Flashes of light
- Increased number of floaters
- Peripheral or side vision loss
How to Remove Floaters in My Eyes
Most people who experience eye floaters won’t require treatment or removal. However, in very rare cases—when the situation is severe enough to impact your ability to see and do everyday tasks—your eye doctor may suggest treatment options.
There are two options available to patients with severe floaters:
- Vitrectomy: A surgery that removes and replaces the vitreous through a small incision. You should be aware that this surgery is not foolproof. Sometimes the surgery will get rid of all the floaters, but new floaters can still develop.
- Vitreolysis: For this treatment option, a doctor will use a special laser to reduce or remove the particles in the vitreous that cause floaters.
Neither treatment option should be taken lightly. Patients may experience adverse reactions following either procedure.
Eye Floaters Are Usually Harmless
Yes, eye floaters are annoying. But most of the time, there isn’t a reason to worry.
Book an eye exam with your optometrist if floaters become more prevalent or impact your daily life. This is key to staying on top of your eye health and catching any problems early.