Eye floaters are 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.
What Are the Symptoms?
Floaters earn their name by moving around in your eye. They tend to dart away when you try to focus on them.
They come in many different shapes:
- Black or gray dots
- Squiggly lines
- Threadlike strands, which can be knobby and almost see-through
Once you get them, they usually don’t go away. But they might get better over time.
What Causes Them?
Most floaters are small flecks of a protein called collagen. They’re part of a gel-like substance in the back of your eye called the vitreous.
As you age, the protein fibers that make up the vitreous shrink down to little shreds that clump together. The shadows they cast on your retina are floaters. If you see a flash, it’s because the vitreous has pulled away from the retina. If that happens, see your eye doctor ASAP.
These changes can happen at any age, but usually occur between 50 and 75. You’re more likely to have them if you’re nearsighted or have had cataract surgery.
It’s rare, but floaters can also result from:
- Eye disease
- Eye injury
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Crystal-like deposits that form in the vitreous
- Eye tumors
Serious eye disorders associated with floaters include:
- Detached retina
- Torn retina
- Bleeding in your vitreous
- Inflamed vitreous or retina caused by infections or an autoimmune condition
- Eye tumors
There is one unique form of eye floater linked with the visual aura that can come with a migraine headache. It could look like what you see when you put your eye to a kaleidoscope. It might even move. It’s different from the floaters and flashbulb type “flashes” that come with other eye problems.