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Eye floaters

Floaters are tiny spots that seems to drift in front of the eyes but do not block vision.

Floaters often develop as part of the eye's natural ageing process and it is not usually possible to prevent them.

Most people notice them more in well-lit rooms or outdoors on a bright day.

Some people have floaters but don't notice them because of the way the brain learns to adapt and ignore them.

The spots are formed when a deposit of protein drifting about in the vitreous, the clear jelly-like substance that fills the middle of the eye, casts a shadow on the retina. Floaters are often described by patients as spots, strands, little flies or even cobwebs.
eye floaters

Are floaters a concern?

Floaters are common and usually not serious.

Larger floaters can be distracting and affect concentration when reading or driving.

They can, however, occasionally result from a separation of the vitreous gel from the retina. This condition is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and causes symptoms such as floaters and flashing lights. It’s important to seek medical attention quickly if these occur as PVD may result in retinal detachment.

Eye drops will not remove floaters, but in serious cases a procedure to remove the vitreous humour liquid from eye may be recommended. Removing the liquid removes debris and floaters and the eye is refilled with saline salt solution. These procedures are called vitrectomies but are rare due to risks of eye surgery and may not be available on the NHS.

Permanent or recurring white or black spots in the same area of your field of vision may, however, be an early warning sign of cataracts or another serious eye problem. If you experience a shadow or curtain that affects any part of your vision, this can indicate that a retinal tear has occurred and has progressed to a detached retina, and this needs urgent medical treatment.

If you notice a sudden change in the type or number of spots or flashes you see, seek medical advice as soon as possible.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on October 17, 2014

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