Floaters in the eye can certainly be bothersome, but when do they become something to worry about? Many people experience floaters, especially as they age, but the vast majority of the time floaters are really no cause for concern. Only in extreme cases do they require medical attention.

What are eye floaters?

Floaters in eye are shadows that you see inside of your eye of natural eye material. They can take many shapes: dots, wiggly lines, and webs are all very common. You may notice that you can see your floaters more clearly when you look at bright, light colored surfaces and objects. Moving your eyes causes the floaters to move as well, so it is hard to really focus in on them.

Why do they appear?

Eye floatersFloaters in eyes develop naturally with age as your eye slowly breaks down. Your eyes are made up of vitreous, a jelly substance that gives the eyeball its round shape. As the vitreous breaks down with age, the bits that do not fully break down appear as floaters. They are not harmful to your eyes and usually just cause a minor annoyance until you are used to them or they settle along the bottom of your eye.  They are also more common in those who are nearsighted or have had injury or surgery to the eye.

When should I be worried?

Floaters are usually not a cause for alarm. However, if you notice a drastic increase in the number of floaters in your eyes, paired with flashes of light or loss of vision along the sides of your eye, you should seek medical attention immediately. This can indicate a retinal tear which is a serious condition that requires treatment.  If left untreated, you are at risk of a retinal detachment and a loss of vision.

How to get rid of eye floaters?

Usually you can’t.  Over time they may move somewhere else inside your eye where the shadow they produce are faint or not noticeable but they may linger for years.  Generally floaters are only treated surgically in very extremely cases that seriously interfere with your vision. The surgical treatments required to rid you of floaters are invasive and often the danger outweighs the benefits that you could get from these surgeries.

If you notice a drastic increase in floaters paired with flashes of light or peripheral vision loss, contact your eye doctor immediately.