What Are Eye Floaters?

Ask the Optician

By Anna MacGabhann
Reviewed by Beck Jinnette
Beck Jinnette

Reviewed by

Beck Jinnette
Beck has over 17 years of experience in eye care, holding her Certificate IV in Dispensing in Australia.
Eye floaters can cast a shadow over your vision but are usually nothing more than a temporary nuisance. Read on to find out about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of eye floaters.
Older person eye- eye floaters

Eye floaters are spots in your vision that drift during eye movement. These eye flashes can become more intense when you look at something bright, such as the blue sky, sun, or artificial light flashes. 

Some eye flashes might appear as black spots in vision, dots, or cobwebs that seem to dart away from you when attempting to look directly at them. In very rare cases, they are cause for concern, but it is important to contact your eye doctor immediately if you experience such symptoms.

What causes eye floaters?

One known cause of eye flashes and floaters is age. As the protein fibers that make up the vitreous, a gel-like substance of the eye, begin to shrink down to shreds, they can cause shadows. This is the most common issue causing black spots in vision and does not typically pose any serious threats to your eye health.  

Sometimes, if the vitreous pulls away from the back of the eye, it is called posterior vitreous detachment. Floaters more often happen as a symptom along with a posterior vitreous detachment, but you can also get them without one.

Other, less common causes include:

Typically, colored contacts, also known as decorative contact lenses, are available in both prescription and plano forms: 

  • Eye injuries:  Inflammation in the back of the eye due to retinal detachment is one example of an eye injury that can cause floaters in vision.
  • Bleeding in the eye: Conditions such as diabetes can cause bleeding in the vitreous humor and can cause you to see black spots.
  • Nearsightedness: People with myopia are more likely to experience floaters.

Symptoms of eye floaters

Eye floaters can be a common occurrence for many people, but how do you know if you have them? If you notice tiny specks or cobweb-like shapes drifting across your line of vision, it’s possible you have eye floaters. These small, shadowy spots are caused by small clusters of cells or proteins that form in the vitreous.

While eye floaters typically do not require medical attention, it’s important to stay vigilant of any sudden increase or significant changes in the number and shape of eye floaters. It could indicate a larger issue, such as a detached retina, that could be a medical emergency.

Eye diagram
Eye diagram

Am I at risk for floaters?

As we age, it’s not uncommon to experience vision problems such as eye floaters. While they don’t typically pose any serious harm, they can indicate underlying health issues such as high blood pressure. Additionally, individuals who suffer from migraines or have undergone eye surgeries may also be more prone to floaters.

If you’re concerned about your general or peripheral vision, it’s always best to consult with your eye specialist to see if you require treatment. They can offer advice on how to manage your symptoms and ensure that any potential health issues are addressed.

When should you see a doctor?

Other signs that suggest you should speak with a doctor include an increased number of black dots, flashes of light or squiggly lines in vision, particularly in the same eye as pre-existing floaters. Darkened vision on the sides of the eye could also be a telltale sign. These symptoms could be linked to more serious issues, such as a retinal tear. 

A retinal tear is a serious condition that should be treated immediately. If untreated, it could lead to permanent vision loss. If you have experienced any of these symptoms related to your eye floaters, you should speak to your doctor immediately to ensure you get any necessary treatments to maintain good eye health.

symptoms of eye floaters
symptoms of eye floaters

How will my eye doctor check for floaters?

During a dilated eye exam, your eye doctor will carefully inspect your eyes for any abnormalities, including floaters. To check for floaters, your eye doctor will use a special instrument to look at the inside of your eye.

They may also shine a bright light into your eye to better see any changes or irregularities. By carefully examining your eyes, your eye doctor can identify any issues, such as retinal tears early and help keep your vision clear and healthy.

The process of checking for eye floaters is simple, painless, and nothing to be worried about. It is vital to visit an eye doctor if you are concerned about your vision to identify problems as early as possible.

Can a pair of glasses treat eye floaters?

Since you usually notice floaters and flashes under bright lights, wearing dark-lensed glasses can help minimise the effect they have on your eyesight. Glasses with a tint that reduces glare are the best option for those who experience eye floaters. At SmartBuyGlasses, there is a huge range of polarised sunglasses that are perfect for reducing eye flashes while outdoors. You can also reduce glare with a pair of photochromic lenses.

Other ways to treat eye floaters

When you have eye floaters diagnosed by a professional, they do not usually require any intervention. Eye floater treatments depend on the severity of the symptoms. If you have experienced a retinal tear or detachment, then treatment may include a laser or freezing treatment. What may occur is that this symptom of spotty vision or burst blood vessels will indicate a greater problem that could involve a surgical procedure. For cases of age-related vision spots, no treatment is recommended, just diligent monitoring of new floaters that appear. In this case, eye floaters shouldn’t threaten your overall vision.  If your vision bothers you, try shifting your eyes up and down to shift the fluid around. This exercise can help eliminate the problem. For other recommended eye exercises, discover our guide to keeping your eyes fit and healthy. Finally, if you have any other concerns or are in need of more eye health-related information, visit our Optical Centre.

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