Have you ever noticed tiny specks or threads drifting across your field of vision? These visual nuances, known as eye floaters, are a common complaint among ophthalmology patients. Often appearing as small specks in our vision, people can also see floaters that look like rings, cobwebs, or squiggly lines and may stand out when you look at something bright, like a white paper or a blue sky. While these small nuisances aren’t always a cause for concern, there are cases where these spots are signs of a much bigger, undiagnosed problem. Understanding what could be causing floaters, and taking steps to diagnose their exact cause, is the key to properly handling any floaters you may experience during your lifetime.

At Everett & Hurite, excellence in eye care is not just a commitment; it's our practice. You'll receive care from specialists who are not only extensively experienced but also compassionate, ensuring that your concerns with eye floaters and visual disturbances are addressed with the utmost attention and personalized care.

Who Sees Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters are an extremely common condition. In fact, almost everyone experiences or develops some form of eye floaters by the age of 70. However, the chance of developing floaters seems to increase if you:

  • Are over the age of 50
  • Have a diagnosis of nearsightedness
  • Have experienced eye trauma at some point in your life
  • Are recovering from cataract surgery
  • Regularly suffers from eye inflammation

What Causes Floaters?

The causes of floaters in the eye vary from person to person, as well as range in degree of seriousness. Four of the most common causes of floaters are:

  • Aging - As we age, the jelly-like substance that gives our eyes its round shape - called the vitreous - starts to partially liquify. When this happens, the vitreous clumps and becomes stringy. This process often create debris within your eye; this debris then sits in the way of light as it passes through your retina, causing you to see floaters or small shadows in your vision.
  • Inflammation - Sometimes the uvea (the part of the eye that encompasses the iris) becomes agitated and inflamed, resulting in swelling and inflammation. This condition, referred to as posterior uveitis, can cause a patient to see eye floaters. The source of this inflammation can be number of issues, including an infection of the eye.
  • Bleeding - Eye floaters can also be caused by bleeding in the vitreous of the eye, which occurs when blood vessels burst due to stress or violent motions of the head.
  • Torn Retina - Sometimes the vitreous starts to sag inside of our eye; when this happens, it often puts traction on the retina of the eye. If the traction becomes too great, it can cause a retinal tear and lead to a retinal detachment.

Each of these causes are very different from one another. The severity of the side effects of each of these causes also often varies, depending on the cause of the problem. And while some causes and side effects are harmless, others can seriously damage your eyes and eyesight.

How Are Eye Floaters Treated?

Eye floaters are common as we age and are caused by clumping of the vitreous jelly in the eye. If floaters become bothersome, there are two main treatment options:

  • Vitrectomy surgery - This involves surgically removing the vitreous and floaters through a small incision in the eye. Risks include retinal tears, cataracts, bleeding, and infection. It is an invasive procedure requiring recovery time.
  • Laser vitreolysis - This non-surgical treatment uses targeted laser pulses to break up eye floaters. It is done in-office in 20-60 minutes. Multiple sessions may be needed to fully clear floaters. Risks are lower than surgery, with potential temporary inflammation.

In many cases, floaters will improve on their own as the brain learns to ignore them. 

When Should You See An Ophthalmologist?

Because there is no pain associated with some of the more serious causes (such as retinal damage), a dilated ocular exam is the only way to be confident that your retina is intact and healthy. This means that it’s extremely important for patients who start suffering from floaters to contact their ophthalmologist as soon as possible and to undergo a dilated eye exam to make sure their floaters aren’t being caused by something serious.

If you’re experiencing any of these additional symptoms, you should call your eye doctor immediately:

  • The floaters seem to worsen - especially if they appear as a sudden onset.
  • Flashes of light are occurring along with the eye floaters.
  • You’re experiencing any kind of vision loss.
  • You recently had eye surgery and the floaters suddenly appeared.
  • Pain is occurring in addition to your seeing the eye floaters.

What Can You Expect From Us?

Eye floaters are a common annoyance that most people will experience at some point in their lives. While they are usually harmless, a sudden increase in floaters can signal a more serious issue like a torn retina or inflammation. Don't ignore new floaters - schedule a comprehensive eye exam right away. The ophthalmologists at our practice take eye health very seriously. We will perform a dilated retinal exam to carefully inspect your eyes and determine the cause of any new floaters. With the proper diagnosis, we can provide the treatment necessary to help you maintain clear, comfortable vision. 

Floaters shouldn't overshadow your life. Book an appointment with Everett & Hurite's eye specialists and see the difference expert care can make! Don't live with frustrating floaters. Call us today to schedule your eye exam!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I get rid of floaters in my eye?

There is no proven treatment to permanently remove eye floaters. They often fade over time. Your eye doctor may recommend eye drops, vitrectomy surgery, or laser treatment for severe cases.

What is posterior vitreous detachment?

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) is a common condition where the vitreous gel inside the eye starts to pull away from the retina. This can cause floaters and flashes of light in your vision.

What is the difference between dark shadows and floaters?

Dark shadows are typically caused by objects blocking light from entering the eye, while floaters are small clumps of debris floating in the vitreous fluid inside the eye and cast shadows on your retina. If you notice floaters accompanied by a dark shadow, it could be a sign of a more serious eye condition and you should schedule an eye exam immediately.

Can floaters and light flashes cause permanent vision loss?

Floaters and light flashes on their own do not typically cause permanent vision loss. However, they can be symptoms of more serious conditions such as retinal detachment or damage. If you experience sudden changes in your vision accompanied by floaters and light flashes, it is important to see an eye doctor as soon as possible to prevent potentially permanent vision loss.