WHAT ARE FLOATERS?
Floaters are specks that float about in your field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly. They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when your eyes stop moving.
Most people have floaters and learn to ignore them; they are usually not noticed until they become numerous or more prominent. Floaters can become apparent when looking at something bright, such as white paper or a blue sky.
WHAT CAUSES FLOATERS?
Floaters occur when the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills about 80 percent of the eye and helps it maintain a round shape, slowly shrinks.
As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina. These are floaters.
In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process and simply an annoyance. They can be distracting at first, but eventually tend to “settle” at the bottom of the eye, becoming less bothersome. They usually settle below the line of sight and do not go away completely.
However, there are other, more serious causes of floaters, including infection, inflammation (uveitis), hemorrhaging, retinal tears, and injury to the eye.
WHO IS AT RISK FOR FLOATERS?
Floaters are more likely to develop as we age and are more common in people who are very nearsighted, have diabetes, or who have had a cataract operation.
Information provided courtesy of the National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health (NEI/NIH).