Skip to Content

Visual Floaters


What are visual floaters?

Floaters are specks that appear to move around in your field of vision. They are dark and shaped like spots or cobwebs. If you try to look straight at them, they seem to dart away.

What causes visual floaters?

Floaters may be caused by tiny particles of debris or blood that float in the vitreous. The vitreous is the gel that fills most of your eye. As you age, the vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the retina. The retina is the thin layer that lines the back of your eye. When this happens, the tissue becomes stringy and casts a shadow on the retina. These shadows can cause you to see floaters. Floaters may also be caused by problems with the retina.

What increases my risk of visual floaters?

  • Aging
  • Nearsightedness (trouble seeing things far away)
  • Inflammation inside the eye, sometimes caused by infection
  • Medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Eye injuries or cataract surgery
  • Problems with the retina

How are visual floaters diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine your eyes and check your vision. He will ask you about your overall health, any eye conditions or injuries, and if you are nearsighted. A slit-lamp exam may be done. This exam uses a microscope with a strong light to check inside your eye.

How are visual floaters treated?

Most floaters are not harmful and do not require treatment. Surgery may be needed if the floaters are so bad that you cannot see well.

How can I protect my eyes?

  • Get annual eye exams. Your ophthalmologist or optometrist will examine your eyes and test your vision.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses with ultraviolet (UV) protection lenses to protect your eyes when you are outdoors.
  • Manage your health conditions. See your healthcare provider regularly if you have a health condition that may affect your vision, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You start to see more floaters over time.
  • You have eye pain or blurred vision, or light hurts your eyes.
  • You have questions or concerns about your care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You suddenly see more floaters, or flashing lights.
  • You have a gradual or sudden loss of vision, or a change in your vision.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Ā© Copyright IBM Corporation 2021 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotesĀ® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or IBM Watson Health

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.