What Are Eye Floaters, And How Are They Diagnosed and Treated?

As we age, many of us may see an occasional small speck or wavy web-like wisp floating through our field of vision. However, when we do notice and try to focus on them, they promptly disappear!  Our optometrists here at Insight Complete Eye Care in Dallas understand how troubling it can be to have these images appear in your vision, and we can help.


What are floaters?

While there are several different kinds of floaters, generally, they are defined as black dots, string-like shapes or clouds that you usually detect when looking at a large expanse of the same color- like a piece of white paper or the blue sky. Fibers drift about in the vitreous - the clear gel-filled space between the lens and the retina in your eyeball. The retina is a thin layer of tissue in the back of your eye. The lens sends the retina light images, which, via the optic nerve, the retina sends to your brain. When fibers of the vitreous separate from the retina they tend to clump together creating shadows which the retina perceives. These are called floaters.

What Causes Floaters?

Some floaters are age-related, some can indicate a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), some may even signal that you have developed a retinal detachment. The problem is, there is no way to know the cause of your floaters without a comprehensive eye examination. Your eye doctor will thoroughly examine your eye structures, but will also discuss your overall health with you, and any pertinent family history or any symptoms you may be experiencing.

Risk factors for floaters include:

  • History of eye trauma
  • Age: the vitreous softens as we grow older, age 40 and above
  • Nearsightedness
  • Diabetes: increases your risk for retinopathy
  • Post-surgery complication: cataract surgery is a common culprit
  • Eye infection or other eye diseases

Symptoms of floaters:

Most floaters turn out to be harmless, but you should schedule an appointment with your optometrist right away if you experience:

  • Sudden onset of new floaters
  • The appearance of many more, or larger floaters than usual
  • Flashes of light accompanying the floater
  • Spots that move when you move your eye
  • Dark edges on the sides of your vision fields

How are floaters treated?

Most floaters, do not require any treatment and will resolve in time. When the floater is due to an underlying eye disease, however, treatment of that condition will help the floater problem resolve also.

Your eyesight is precious; we’re here to help you preserve it. If you or a loved one experience floaters, call us at Insight Complete Eye Care for an appointment today at (469) 701-3242.