4 Things to Know About Floaters in Your Vision

According to Dr. Nora Khatib, a Scripps Affiliated Medical Groups ophthalmologist, floaters are little specks or spots in your vision. They may bother or annoy you, especially when it is bright outside or when looking at a bright computer screen. These little spots are known as floaters, because they can appear to “float” or dart around in your vision when you move your eyes or when you try to look directly at them.

What do you need to know about floaters?

1. Floaters are due to natural changes in the gel of the eye and are part of the normal aging process.

Everyone has a gel in the back of the eye called the vitreous, which is a clear gel made of water and proteins. The proteins in the gel begin to form clumps slowly over time. As these clumps develop, we start to see their shadows, which are the floaters we notice. In some people floaters can begin as early as their teens or twenties but most commonly occur later in life.

2. Sudden onset of floaters may be a sign of retinal tear or detachment.

The most worrisome floaters are those that occur suddenly causing a “spot,” “squiggly line,” or “web” appearance in the vision. These sudden symptoms could be the sign of a retinal tear or detachment and should be evaluated by an ophthalmologist. The ophthalmologist will dilate your eyes to examine the retina in detail.

3. Most people adapt to floaters, making them less noticeable.

Once floaters occur, the changes in the gel are typically permanent. The good news is our brain learns to adapt and ignore the floaters, so they become less noticeable over time. It can take two to three months after new floaters appear for them to become less noticeable, but sometimes some floaters continue to be apparent.

4. Occasionally, treatment may be needed for floaters.

Sometimes, when floaters do not become less noticeable and are extremely bothersome, surgery can be offered to remove the floaters. However, surgery is not without risk and is typically reserved for severe cases where floaters interfere with the ability to see while reading, driving, watching TV, and other daily activities.

If you have any concerns about changes in your vision, be sure to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Your ophthalmologist will determine if changes in your vision are normal or if you need further treatment.

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