Definition

What are eye floaters?

Eye floaters appear as small spots that drift through your field of vision. They may stand out when you look at something bright, like white paper or a blue sky. They might annoy you, but they shouldn’t interfere with your sight.

If you have a large floater, it can cast a slight shadow over your vision. But this tends to happen only in certain types of light.

You can learn to live with floaters and ignore them. You may notice them less as time passes. Only rarely do they get bad enough to require treatment.

How common are eye floaters?

While annoying, ordinary eye floaters and spots are very common and usually aren’t cause for alarm. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of eye floaters?

The common symptoms of eye floaters are:

  • Spots in your vision that appear as dark specks or knobby, transparent strings of floating material
  • Spots that move when you move your eyes, so when you try to look at them, they move quickly out of your visual field
  • Spots that are most noticeable when you look at a plain bright background, such as a blue sky or a white wall
  • Spots that eventually settle down and drift out of the line of vision

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Many more eye floaters than usual
  • A sudden onset of new floaters
  • Flashes of light
  • Darkness on the sides of your vision (peripheral vision loss)

These painless symptoms could be caused by a retinal tear, with or without a retinal detachment — a sight-threatening condition that requires immediate attention.

Causes

What causes eye floaters?

Eye floaters may be caused by:

  • Age-related eye changes. Eye floaters most commonly occur as a result of age-related changes in the vitreous, the jelly-like substance that fills your eyeballs and helps maintain their round shape. Over time, the vitreous partially liquefies — a process that causes it to pull away from the eyeball’s interior surface. As the vitreous shrinks and sags, it clumps and gets stringy. Bits of this debris block some of the light passing through the eye, casting tiny shadows on your retina.
  • Inflammation in the back of the eye. Posterior uveitis is inflammation in the layers of the uvea in the back of the eye. Posterior uveitis, which can cause eye floaters, may be caused by infection or inflammatory diseases, among other causes.
  • Bleeding in the eye. Bleeding into the vitreous can have many causes, including injury and blood vessel problems.
  • Torn retina. Retinal tears can occur when a sagging vitreous tugs on the retina with enough force to tear it. Without treatment, retinal tear may lead to retinal detachment — an accumulation of fluid behind the retina that causes it to separate from the back of your eye. Untreated retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for eye floaters?

There are many risk factors for eye floaters, such as:

  • Age over 50
  • Nearsightedness
  • Eye trauma
  • Complications from cataract surgery
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Eye inflammation

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are eye floaters diagnosed?

Your doctor will conduct a complete eye exam including eye dilation to better see the back of your eyes.

How are eye floaters treated?

Benign ones almost never require medical treatment.

If they annoy you, try to get them out of your field of vision. Move your eyes — this shifts the fluid around. Look up and down, that usually works better than side to side.

If you have so many that they block your vision, your eye doctor may suggest surgery called a vitrectomy. He’ll remove the vitreous and replace it with a salt solution.

You might have complications like:

The risk is low, but if these problems happen, they can permanently damage your vision.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage eye floaters?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with eye floaters:

  • Relax: Sometimes, when your eyes are tired or strained, it can contribute to eye floaters, so getting some good rest is imperative.
  • Give yourself a massage: Massage your temples gently while your eyes are closed and covered with a warm cloth. You can also rub your hands together to generate heat and place them over your eyelids.
  • Do some eye exercises: Roll your eyes in circular motions clockwise, then counter-clockwise. Repeat a few times a day. Another exercise is to hold an object (for example, a pen) in front of you as far away as possible. Focus on the object and slowly bring it closer to your face – about six inches away. Repeat moving it further and closer a few times.
  • Limit TV and screen time: Prolonged screen time can harm your eyes.
  • Drink plenty of water: Water can help detox the body, as eye floaters may be indicative of a toxin accumulation.
  • Eat antioxidant-rich foods: Foods high in antioxidants can help fight off free radical damage (which can lead to eye floaters). Antioxidant-rich foods include blueberries, kale, pomegranate, oranges, and strawberries.
  • Eat taurine-rich foods: Eating foods high in taurine can help support healthy vision. Examples include meat and seafood.
  • Do yoga: Yoga can reduce stress, and many of the movements require your eyes to be closed which can help them rest.
  • Use sunglasses: Wearing sunglasses can protect your eyes from UV rays that are harmful for your eyes.
  • Sleep well: Getting proper sleep will ensure that your eyes are not strained or tired.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 4, 2017 | Last Modified: August 4, 2017

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.