Eye Floaters: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on May 09, 2024
9 min read

Eye floaters appear as small spots that drift through your field of vision. They may stand out when you look at something bright, such as a white paper or 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 eye floaters and ignore them. You may notice them less as time passes. Only rarely do they get bad enough to require treatment.

Floaters are called so because they move around in your eye. They tend to move away when you try to focus on them.

They come in many different shapes:

  • Black or gray dots
  • Squiggly (wavy) lines
  • Threadlike strands, which can be knobby and almost see-through
  • Cobwebs
  • Rings

Once you get eye floaters, they usually don’t go away completely. But you may notice them less over time.

Most floaters are tiny 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 into 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 the floaters are new or have dramatically changed, or you suddenly start seeing flashes, see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

These changes can happen at any age but usually occur between 50 and 75. You’re more likely to have eye floaters if you’re nearsighted or have had cataract surgery.

It’s rare, but floaters can also result from:

Serious eye disorders associated with floaters include:

  • Detached retina
  • Torn retina
  • Bleeding in your vitreous
  • Inflamed vitreous or retina caused by an infection or autoimmune condition
  • Eye tumors

Something that might look like a floater is the visual aura that usually comes with a migraine headache. It could look like what you see in a kaleidoscope. It might even move. It’s different from floaters and flashbulb-type “flashes” that come with other eye problems. This usually lasts about 30 minutes or less and may involve both eyes. But then it completely resolves unless you have another episode.

What causes sudden floaters in one eye?

Sudden eye floaters can happen if you have a serious eye condition such as posterior vitreous detachment, which happens when the vitreous separates from the back wall of the eye.

Other symptoms you might have include:

  • Flashes of light, which might mean you have a retinal tear or detachment
  • Blurriness in your side or front vision
  • A dark shadow that looks like a curtain or shade is covering a part of your sight
  • Eye pain

See a doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms. Also, if you have sudden floaters in one or both eyes that don’t go away, or if your floaters feel more intense than they used to, visit a doctor.

Can you develop eye floaters after the eclipse?

If you look directly at an eclipse without protective eyewear, you'll get temporary eye floaters. This means you likely have solar retinopathy, or retina damage due to the sun. Other symptoms of solar retinopathy include:

  • Eye soreness
  • Eye pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Vision changes
  • Headache
  • Watery eyes

Mild cases of solar retinopathy don't require treatment, and your symptoms will improve each day. See your eye doctor to get a proper diagnosis and to monitor your recovery.

Anxiety and stress don't directly cause eye floaters, but they can make you more aware of them and feel more uncomfortable. Having floaters may also make you feel more anxiety, depression, or stress, but more research is needed about this connection.

Speak with your doctor if you feel worried or anxious that you might have eye floaters or if your eye floaters are causing you emotional distress.

You may not need any treatment if your floaters are mild and not due to other eye problems. They may even go away or feel less noticeable. You can also learn to live with them or reduce how distracting your eye floaters are with natural methods.

Move the floaters away from your vision. If eye floaters annoy you, try to get them out of your field of vision. Move your eyes -- this shifts the fluid around. Look up and down, as that usually works better than side to side.

Prioritize a well-balanced diet. A healthy, balanced diet that includes vitamin A-rich foods such as carrots, leafy greens, liver, fish, and dairy products such as milk, cheese, and eggs may support your eye health.

Take supplements for eye health. Vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc supplements can all support eye health. Talk to your doctor first before starting any supplements. They may tell you if you’re a good candidate for supplements and recommend the best ones for you.

Do eye exercises. Eye exercises can reduce how many eye floaters you notice by improving blood circulation in your eyes. These exercises involve slowly moving your eyes in circles or focusing on a faraway object for a while.

Quit smoking. Smoking may contribute to seeing floaters because it affects blood circulation. You can take the first step by talking to your doctor or visiting the CDC’s recommended resource for quitting.

Manage or prevent eye strain. Your eye floaters can feel worse or more noticeable when your eyes are tired. You can manage or prevent eye strain by reducing how often and long you look at computer screens.

Filter bright lights. Stay away from bright lights as much as you can. Wear sunglasses when outside. Use only low indoor lights. Rather than using overhead lights in your spaces, use lamps.

Ignore them. You can ignore eye floaters by doing physically and mentally exciting activities when you feel bothered by eye floaters. These activities include dancing, walking your pet, or playing a card or board game. If floaters get worse or appear with flashes, talk to your doctor.

There are some surgical methods to treat eye floaters.

Laser treatment

If your eye floaters are mild, your eye doctor may treat them with laser treatment. They will use a special laser, like the one used for LASIK treatment, to break up the floaters so you see them less.

Laser therapy may improve vision for some but not all. It also carries the risk of retinal damage with inaccurate aiming. More studies are needed on how well and safely they work for eye floaters.


If you have so many floaters that they block your vision, your eye doctor may suggest a surgery called vitrectomy. They’ll remove the vitreous in your eye and replace it with a salt (saline) solution or a bubble made of oil or gas. As you heal, your eye will replace the fluid with its own natural aqueous humor.

You might have complications such as:

  • Detached retina
  • Torn retina
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Infection
  • Bleeding

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

Do eye drops for floaters help?

Eye drops that dilate the pupil, called atropine eye drops, may help make you notice floaters less. But they can cause blurry vision. You may see alternative medicine eye drops on the market for treating eye floaters, but there’s no evidence that they work.

Eye drops may help lubricate your eyes and manage other eye issues such as eye redness or itching.

If you only have a few eye floaters that don't change over time, don’t worry.

Go to the doctor immediately if you notice:

  • A sudden increase in the number of floaters
  • Flashes of light
  • A loss of side vision
  • Changes that come on quickly and get worse over time
  • Floaters after eye surgery or eye trauma
  • Eye pain

Choose a doctor who has experience with retina problems. Treating eye floaters as soon as you notice them can help protect your eyesight and give you the best results.

Though you can't prevent eye floaters, you can reduce your risk by following practices that benefit eye health:

  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in nutrients and vitamins that support eye health. Examples include fruits, leafy greens like spinach and kale, and fish like salmon and tuna.
  • Stay physically active to reduce your risk of having chronic diseases (such as diabetes) that may affect your eye health.
  • Talk to your doctor about any changes you notice in your vision.
  • Wash your hands before touching your eyes, especially if you wear contact lenses.
  • Wear 99% or 100% UV-blocking sunglasses, and never look directly at the sun.
  • Wear protective eyewear when doing activities that directly affect your eyes, such as looking at an eclipse.
  • Avoid staring at screens for longer than 20 minutes at a time. To prevent eye strain from computers, phones, or TVs, rest your eyes every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Quit smoking, as it can raise your risk of having eye problems.
  • Get an eye exam every 2 years, especially if you’re over 60, an African American over 40, or have a family history of glaucoma. Have your eyes tested every year if you have diabetes or high blood pressure.

Though eye floaters can be annoying, most cases don’t affect how well you see. Many floaters happen from age-related changes in your eye’s vitreous. See a doctor as soon as you notice eye floaters that don’t go away or if you notice any changes in your vision. Your doctor can help treat any conditions that may be causing it. Also, see a doctor immediately if you have symptoms of a serious eye condition such as flashes of light, a sudden increase in the number of floaters, and eye pain.

When should you worry about eye floaters?

You should see a doctor immediately about eye floaters that get worse and happen with other symptoms such as eye pain and light flashes. 

How do I get rid of floaters in my eye?

For mild eye floaters, you can try moving your eyes up and down to shift them out of your field of vision. You can also filter bright lights in your home or work environment. If needed, you can get rid of floaters through vitrectomy, a surgery that replaces the vitreous in your eye.

How long do floaters in the eye last?

Some eye floaters are temporary, like the ones that appear when you look at bright lights or a clear, sunny sky. Other kinds of floaters may never go away and could be age-related. But, you might notice them less as time goes on.

How can I cure my eye floaters naturally?

Eye floaters can't be cured naturally, but you can make them feel less annoying by doing eye exercises, avoiding eye strain, and focusing on an eye-healthy diet.

Do eye floaters go away on their own?

Eye floaters come and go. But in many cases, they don’t go away on their own.