Frequently Asked Questions about Eye Floaters

When we reach a certain age, we may begin to notice objects drifting across our field of vision. These are phenomena called floaters. If you have noticed these objects and have attempted to look at them, you know they cannot be pinned down visually. Trying to look at a floater is the fastest way to get it to disappear, it seems. Because floaters are a common symptom experienced by most adults, we receive a lot of questions about this visual disturbance. Here, we answer some of the most common.

What is an eye floater?

Floaters are not imaginary objects floating through vision. They are small clumps of protein that have formed inside the eye. As light passes through the eye, these clumps may cast shadows on the retina. These appear as small blobs, cobwebs, hair, black dots, or worm-like shapes. As the eyes shift around, floaters move. They are most obvious when you are observing a uniform background such as the sky.

Why do floaters occur?

We get floaters as we get older because the vitreous humor, the gel-like fluid that fills the center of the eye, loses density. The liquid becomes watery and clumps of protein float through it. Protein clumps become visible as they cast shadows on the back of the eye. While age is the most common factor that contributes to floaters, they may also stem from inflammation, infection, an eye injury, or a retinal tear.

Should I be concerned about eye floaters?

Most people over the age of 40 will experience the occasional object floating around their field of vision. The change in the vitreous humor is a natural occurrence that is usually not a cause for concern. However, floaters are sometimes indicative of a retinal tear, a condition that can be very serious. A retinal tear may occur if the shrinking vitreous tugs on the retina so much that this structure begins to separate from the back of the eye. If the retina tears and begins to detach, floaters may coincide with shadowing coming over vision as well as streaks of light passing through the field of vision. These symptoms require prompt medical attention.

Floaters may go away on their own over time. However, it is wise to schedule a retinal exam if floaters develop to ensure that this important part of the eye is healthy and intact. VitreoRetinal Surgery, PA is proud to serve patients in several Minnesota cities, including St. Cloud, Minneapolis, and Duluth. To find an office near you, call (800) VRS-2500.