Question

Eye Conditions

What are floaters?

A Answers (8)

  • AMichael Roizen, MD, Internal Medicine, answered
    If you have enough of them, it looks like you can see a planetarium in your line of vision. Though those little black dots can be disturbing the first time you notice them, floaters are actually harmless. They're little specks that float around the vitreous fluid in your eye and are usually caused by some form of trauma (like a car accident), or through a lifetime of optical wear and tear-lifting, straining, and rubbing your eyes. If you see a sudden cascade of new floaters at once, however, get to your ophthalmologist PDQ.
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  • ARealAge answered

    Stare at a white wall for a few seconds. See any tiny bubble-shaped shadows or stringy things floating across your visual field? If so, you've got floaters -- harmless bits of cellular debris swimming around in the vitreous part of the eye. They get more common with age and are nothing to worry about, typically -- unless you suddenly see lots of them, along with vision loss, pain, or sparks of light. If so, get yourself to a doctor as soon as possible to make sure you don't have retinal detachment or another serious eye condition.

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  • AChallenge America answered
    People of all ages are disturbed by floaters in the eyes. They often appear as specks seen especially when looking at a light background. They literally “float” in and out of view. As one gets older, it is likely that these floaters will increase because of changes in the clear gel-like fluid called vitreous which fills the eye. Most floaters are not associated with serious eye disease, however, a sudden increase in the number of floaters may signal a torn or detached retina. A broken blood vessel in the eye can also produce a sudden increase in floaters with subsequent decreased vision. It is always wise to see an ophthalmologist to determine if floaters are harmless in the beginning or a more serious problem.
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  • AJacob Teitelbaum, Integrative Medicine, answered

    Sometimes we get little bits of debris floating around in the liquid (called the "vitreous humor") that fills our eyes. This can include blood cells (round) or fungal filaments (which look like a thick thread with small lines along it). Oddly, the lens in our eye then acts like a microscope, allowing us to see them floating around in our eyes.

    These are very common, and when they have come on gradually (over months to years) and there are just a few of them, they are normal and not dangerous. When there is a new sudden shower of them in one eye, this can represent a medical emergency (called a "retinal tear") which should be seen immediately. A simple laser technique can fix the tear if done early, where vision may not be recovered if the tear is allowed to progress.

  • You may sometimes see small specks or clouds moving in your field of vision. They are called floaters. You can often see them when looking at a plain background, like a blank wall or blue sky.

    Floaters are actually tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the clear, gel-like fluid that fills the inside of the eye. The specks that you see are the shadows they cast on the retina — the layer of light-sensing cells lining the back of the eye. The retina converts light rays into signals that are sent through the optic nerve to the brain and recognized as images.

    You should contact your ophthalmologist right away if you suddenly develop new floaters. These symptoms may indicate a torn retina, which could lead to retinal detachment.

  • AHealthwise answered

    Floaters are shadows or dark objects that "float" across your field of vision. Floaters may appear as dark specks, strings, or cobwebs that float through the eye.

    Many people begin to see floaters as they get older and their eyes age. If floaters have been present before, or if they occur with a diagnosed migraine headache, this condition is usually not serious. They are usually caused by tiny bits of solid tissue that collect in the thick fluid that fills the center of the eye (vitreous gel), blocking light to the retina.

    Sudden development of floaters or black dots may mean that a retinal blood vessel has broken and is bleeding into the middle of the eye. This condition, called vitreous hemorrhage, results from the vitreous gel tugging on the retina. It may also be a sign of a serious retinal tear, which requires immediate medical attention.

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

  • AMarian S. Macsai, MD, Ophthalmology, answered on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem
    Marian Macsai, MD - What are floaters?

    Floaters are clumps of cells floating around inside the eye that are caused by normal age-related processes. Learn more from Dr. Marian Macsai on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem about floaters.


  • AIvan Schwab, Ophthalmology, answered on behalf of American Academy of Ophthalmology's EyeSmart
    Floaters are imperfections within the eye. They are collections of tiny fibers and cells that cast a shadow on the retina, especially when looking at a bright plain background -- such as a bright blue sky. They tend to move gently on their own or with movements of the eye -- hence the name, floaters. These can be annoying, and there is no good way to be rid of them.
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