Eye floaters are small, shadowy specks that hover and drift across a person’s field of vision. From web-like lines, thready rings, or see-through spots, eye floaters are extremely common and, in general, a natural part of the aging process.
However, in some cases, eye floaters can indicate a developing eye condition or an underlying health issue. It is important to know what potential issues to be aware of to ensure you maintain great vision at any age.
What causes eye floaters?
The majority of eye floaters occur from a build-up of protein on the vitreous, a gel-like protective layer between the lens and retina that helps maintain your eye’s shape. As we age, the fibers that make up this substance can clump together, casting shadows — or floaters — in our vision.
People who are nearsighted or have undergone cataract surgery are more likely to experience eye floaters, but they can happen to anyone. While eye floaters are generally not a cause for concern, they may also be a symptom of more serious, vision-threatening conditions.
Eye floaters can result from:
- Eye inflammation or infection
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Eye tumors
- A retinal tear or detachment
- A traumatic eye injury or bleeding
Medications, migraines, and surgery can also contribute to eye floaters.
Can eye floaters be removed?
Many cases of eye floaters do not require treatment. They amount to little more than a mild annoyance and may fade away on their own — or become less noticeable as your vision adapts.
Maintaining a healthy diet, wearing protective eyewear, and getting adequate rest can all help improve the state of your eye floaters.
However, if eye floaters continue to impair your vision, your eye doctor may consider further treatment. These options include:
- Laser therapy — a minimally-invasive approach using lasers to break up protein clumps, reducing their presence
- Vitrectomy — a surgery that removes the vitreous and replaces it with a solution that your body will naturally replace over time
Both options are highly effective but do have some risks, such as bleeding, trauma, or retinal damage. These treatment methods also cannot guarantee that eye floaters will not redevelop. Only your doctor can determine the right strategy for you, including which combination of medical interventions and lifestyle changes can help you restore and maintain normal vision.
When should you see your doctor about eye floaters?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recommends that every person undergo a baseline eye exam at the age of 40 to screen for eye disease, even if you have had no vision problems before then. If you have a family history of eye disease or certain risk factors, like diabetes or high blood pressure, you may want to get a baseline eye exam before the age of 40.
However, you should contact a specialist immediately if you:
- Suddenly notice many more eye floaters than usual
- Experience light flashes alongside your floaters
- Have changes to your peripheral vision, like darkness or shadows along the edge of your line of sight
While mild cases of eye floaters do not require treatment, you should still report any symptoms at your next eye appointment. This ensures your doctor can monitor your eyes for underlying conditions that may be related to the floaters you experience.
Spotting and treating potential problems early is the best way to help maintain great vision at any age. Get in touch with us at Brimhall Eye Center to schedule an appointment. We will help you take a proactive approach to better eye health, managing and mitigating any problems that can impact healthy vision.