Floaters are tiny segments of vitreous humour (the transparent gel-like substance in your inner eye), that have broken loose inside your eye. Once loose, they usually appear as cloudy or semi-opaque cobweb-like threads, flecks or spots in your field of vision.
Floaters are generally noticeable when looking at a plain surface such as the sky, a light coloured wall or a computer screen. They often look as though they’re floating through the air and move as you blink or change your viewing direction.
Floaters can look like:
When we’re young, the vitreous humour fills the space between the lens and retina of the eye. But as we age, this substance begins to break down and tiny clumps of the vitreous humour can start to break loose and begin to float within the thinning substance.
More of a nuisance than anything, floaters are actually quite common and not usually a cause for alarm. However, if you do experience a sudden increase or ‘shower’ of floaters on their own or accompanied by light flashes, we recommend seeing your Health Partners optometrist immediately, as this may indicate retinal detachment or retinal tears.
Anyone can develop floaters but the chances usually increase with age. You also have an increased risk of floaters if you’re short-sighted, diabetic, post cataract surgery, or play contact sports.
Our optometrists can detect floaters during a regular eye test and may even identify them before you see them yourself. If your optometrist is concerned about the extent and severity of your floaters, they’ll endeavour to determine the cause as this may indicate a more serious problem.
Once developed, floaters will not go away and treatment is not recommended – but there are ways of dealing with them. As floaters do exactly what their name suggests – they float – moving your eyes up and down or from side to side can help move them out of your field of vision.
As they’re more obvious in bright light, we recommend wearing sunglasses when outside. Without any intervention, floaters should become less noticeable over time.