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Why should I know about eye floaters?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

After age 65, you can expect to lose about 5 percent of the vitreous fluid in your eyeball each year. When you lose that fluid, little particles that would be normally pinned in place because of the pressure begin to float. That's what causes those usually harmless black-dot floaters that you may see dancing in your vision. Any change or sudden increase in floaters may also be a sign of a serious retinal problem. Call your eye doctor right away.

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When people reach middle age, the vitreous gel may start to thicken or shrink, forming clumps or strands inside the eye. The vitreous gel pulls away from the back wall of the eye, causing a posterior vitreous detachment. This is a common cause of floaters.

Posterior vitreous detachment is more common in people who:

  • Are nearsighted
  • Have undergone cataract operations
  • Have had YAG laser surgery of the eye
  • Have had inflammation inside the eye

The appearance of floaters may be alarming, especially if they develop very suddenly. You should contact your ophthalmologist (Eye M.D.) right away if you develop new floaters, especially if you are over 45 years of age. While eye floaters can be annoying and distracting, they do not cause loss of balance.

Dr. Aaron P. Weingeist, MD
Ophthalmologist (Eye Specialist)

Floaters are small pieces of vitreous gel or cells shaped like dots, circles, lines, clouds, or cobwebs that tend to be more common in adults once they reach middle age. Although it may look like these particles are in front of your eye, they are actually floating in the vitreous fluid—a clear fluid that fills the inside of your eye. Many floaters are harmless, and surgery to treat them is almost never required. They may diminish over time without treatment.

However, in some cases, the sudden appearance of floaters or flashes of light may be a sign that there is a tear in the retina. This can be a serious problem because, if left untreated, the retina may detach from the back of the eye. If you experience either of these symptoms, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.