Symptoms and Signs of Eye Floaters

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 10/12/2021

Doctor's Notes on Eye Floaters

Floaters are small obstructions in the visual field of one or both eyes which resemble anything from black spots, strands to dust particles. Many people experience floaters; in most individuals floaters don’t cause any serious condition. Signs and symptoms of floaters are

  • the appearance of black or dark spots,
  • strands or dark material resembling cobwebs or
  • “insects” wiggling or moving in their field of vision.

A variation of floaters termed asteroid hyalosis describes many (dozens to hundreds) small yellowish calcium-lipid complexes, looking like stars in the sky.

There are two main causes of floaters, benign and pathological.

  • Benign causes are when, for example, tiny hemorrhages place blood and/or the blood’s contents into the eye’s vitreous gel. These usually resolve spontaneously.
  • Pathological causes can be of several types including retinal tears and/or detachments, eye trauma, eye surgery, degenerative retinal conditions associated with diseases (for example, diabetesblood disorders of clotting or bleeding, inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and ocular diseases like cataracts.)
  • Infrequently, there may be other causes like retained foreign bodies, hemorrhagic macular degeneration and relatively rare parasitic infections.

What are the treatments of eye floaters?

According to the Mayo clinic, almost all eye floaters do not require treatments. They usually cause no problems and they often decrease when the underlying cause (for example, inflammation, diabetic bleeding) is treated. Rarely, eye floaters impair vision; if this happens, there are some treatments that include:

  • Surgery - remove the vitreous humor (and the floaters) then replace the vitreous with a solution to keep the eye shape
  • Laser disruption of floaters - breaks up large floaters so they are not as noticeable

Your ophthalmologist can discuss any eye floater problems you may have and recommend treatments if necessary.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.