Eye floaters are shapes that can appear in your vision as you get older. They appear to be in front of your eyes, but floaters are actually inside your eye. In some severe cases, treatment for eye floaters is needed to help you see clearly.
What Are Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters can appear like debris in your vision. Floaters can look like:
- Specks of dust
You may notice eye floaters when you’re looking at a blank wall, surface, or sky. When you blink or move your eye to try and clear them away, the floaters move with your vision or appear to move away quickly. It’s like having specks of dust or dirt stuck to the lens of a camera.
Floaters are clumps of cells or gel inside the vitreous, or jelly-like part of your eye. As you get older, the vitreous shrinks and becomes more liquidy. As this happens, tiny fibers inside the vitreous clump together and create shadows on your retina. The shadows that you see are eye floaters.
Eye floaters move through your vitreous slowly, and when they do they pass through a part of the eye called the macula. This is the center of your retina. Once the tiny particles move across the macula, you can see them.
Other Causes of Floaters
Usually, eye floaters appear as you get older. However, there are some other causes.
Retinal tear. If the vitreous pulls too hard on your retina, it can cause it to tear. If a retinal tear is left untreated, this can cause retinal detachment. This is when the retina is pulled away from the back of your eye. This needs to be treated to avoid further problems, like loss of vision.
Bleeding in the eye. Blood in your eye can cause floaters. This is usually associated with diabetes.
Sometimes, bleeding can also be caused by:
- Injury to your eye
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Blocked blood vessels
If the cause is diabetes, blood from the retina can enter the vitreous. This is a condition that is called diabetic retinopathy. This can cause you to see dark spots and not just faint shapes or lines. It’s important that if you are diabetic you have regular vision tests so that your retinopathy doesn’t get worse.
Inflammation. A less common cause of vitreous floaters is inflammation. Inflammatory eye conditions, called uveitis, can cause your eye to swell. This swelling causes you to see floaters. It’s important to get an eye exam to pinpoint the cause of the inflammation.
Treatments for Eye Floaters
If you’re seeing floaters, your doctor will give you an eye exam to make sure that your retina isn’t damaged. Your doctor may also ask you to have regular eye exams to monitor your vitreous.
Mild floaters. If the cause of your vitreous floaters is simply aging and they don’t block your vision, you probably don’t need treatment. Over time, they may become less noticeable as the floaters gradually make it to the bottom of your eye and settle there. They don’t go away, but they can settle in a spot where you hardly notice them. There are currently no home remedies or treatments for eye floaters.
Bothersome floaters. Laser surgery is effective in breaking up big floaters into pieces that are small enough that they aren’t noticeable. An eye specialist will aim a laser at the floater in the vitreous.
If your floaters greatly interfere with your vision or daily life, your doctor may recommend a surgery called a vitrectomy. It is an outpatient procedure that is done while you are under anesthesia. This surgery is recommended for people who have lots of floaters in their eyes that make it hard to do simple activities like read or drive a car.
Vitrectomies are only suggested to people when eye floaters greatly affect their quality of life. It’s a risky surgery in which your doctor will make small cuts in your eye to remove the vitreous. To take its place, your doctor will then fill your eye with a solution that imitates the vitreous.
Some risks from a vitrectomy surgery include:
- Formation of cataracts
- Retinal tear
- Retinal detachment
- Macular edema (swelling)
- Macular pucker (scar tissue on the macula)
- Loss of vision
- Not getting all the floaters out