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Have you heard the term “floaters,” but don’t know what it means? Do you see specks in your field of vision? Well, you’re not the only one. Floaters happen when the vitreous body of the eye (clear-gel that fills the space between the lens and retina) shrinks. As it shrinks, little fibers break away and become stringy. These stringy masses disrupt the light coming into the retina and casts a shadow in the eye. Those shadows are the floaters you see.

Everyone will get floaters at some point in their lives because they are a normal part of the aging process. However, you’re at a higher risk if you:

  • Are very nearsighted
  • Have diabetes
  • Have had surgery to treat cataracts

Aging isn’t the only way a person can develop floaters. The following can also cause floaters:

  • Uveitis (inflammation in the eye)
  • Retinal detachment
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Vitreous detachment
  • Retinal tear
  • Eye infections

If you notice a sudden increase in eye floaters, you should get checked by your eye doctor.

In most cases, eye floaters do not require treatment. Floaters tend to settle down at the bottom of the eye, below the field of vision. In rare cases, floaters may become very dense and potentially disrupt a person’s vision. In that case, a vitrectomy is performed, which surgically removes the vitreous gel causing the floater and replaces it with a saline solution or a bubble filled with gas or oil. An alternative to invasive surgery is a laser treatment called laser vitreolysis; the treatment breaks apart or dissolves larger floaters to make them less noticeable.

Eye floaters are a normal occurrence and are often harmless, but if there’s a sudden increase or disruption of vision, see your eye doctor for an exam.

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