Eye floaters – causes, symptoms and associated risk factors

eye floaters

Eye floaters are spots in our vision. They may look to us like gray or black specks, cobwebs or strings which drift about when we move our eyes and they appear to dart away when we try to look at them directly. In the most cases eye floaters are caused by age – related changes which are happening as the vitreous (the jelly – like substance inside our eyes) becomes more liquid [1]. There are some studies in which is said that the microscopic fibers within your vitreous which tend to clump and they can cast tiny shadows on the retina which is appearing as floaters. If you have noticed a sudden increase in the eye floaters, then you should contact your eye specialist immediately, especially if you lose your peripheral vision or you see light flashes. The mentioned signs can be signs of an emergency situation which is requiring prompt attention. Eye floaters are mostly common in older people who are above 50. It is known fact that by the age of 70, most people have experienced eye floaters at least once in their lives [2]. It is known that babies are born with clear vitreous so it is a very rare to find some children which is under 16 with eye floaters. There are rare cases when eye floaters are troublesome unless they are a symptom of a more serious condition.


Eye floaters symptoms

Here are some symptoms of eye floaters:

  • Spots that eventually settle down and drift out of the line of vision
  • Spots that are most noticeable when you look at a plain bright background such as a white wall or a blue sky
  • Spots that move when you move your eyes, so when you try to look at them, they move quickly out of the visual field
  • You can have spots in your vision that appear as dark specks or knobby, transparent strings of floating material

You should contact an eye specialist if you notice many more eye floaters than usual or a sudden onset of new floaters. Also if you have noticed flashes of light or darkness on the sides of your vision (peripheral vision loss), then you should talk with your eye specialist as soon as possible. The mentioned symptoms are symptoms that can be caused by a retinal tear, with or without a retinal detachment. A retinal – detachment is a sight – threatening condition which requires immediate attention. Your doctor will conduct a complete eye exam which is including eye dilation to better see the back of the eyes. You should write your symptoms. If you have used home remedies for eye floaters or some medications , then tell them to your doctor.

eye floaters

Eye floaters causes

Here are some causes for eye floaters:

  • Torn retina: It is known fact that the retinal tears can happen when a sagging vitreous tugs on the retina with enough force to tear it. If you do not treat this condition, then the retinal tear can lead to retinal detachment which is an accumulation of fluid behind the retina which is causing it to separate from the back of the eye. Also if you left the retinal detachment untreated, then it can cause permanent vision loss. [3]
  • Bleeding in the eye: There are many causes which could lead to bleeding into the vitreous such as blood vessel problems and injury. [3]
  • Inflammation in the back of the eye: The inflammation in the layers of the uvea in the back of the eye is known as posterior uveitis. This inflammation can cause eye floaters and it can be caused by inflammatory diseases or infection. [4]
  • Age – related eye change: This condition (eye floaters) is most commonly caused as a result of age – related changes in the vitreous, the jelly – like substance which fills our eyeballs and it can help to maintain their shape. As the times passes by, the vitreous partially liquefies. This is a process which causes it to pull away from the eyeball’s interior surface. As the vitreous sags and shrinks, it clumps and it gets stringy. Bits of this debris block some of the light that is passing throughout your eye which is casting tiny shadows on the retina. [1]

Risk factors: Here are some factors which can increase your risk of developing eye floaters:

  • Eye inflammation [3]
  • Diabetic retinopathy [5]
  • Complications from cataract surgery [6]
  • Eye trauma
  • Nearsightedness [3]
  • Age over 50


[1] Webb BF, Webb JR, Schroeder MC, North CS. Prevalence of vitreous floaters in a community sample of smartphone users. International Journal of Ophthalmology. 2013;6(3):402–5.

[2] Cipolletta S, Beccarello A, Galan A. A psychological perspective of eye floaters. Qualitative Health Research. 2012;22(11):1547-58.

[3] National Eye Institute. Floaters. Retrieved from www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/floaters

[4] Blair NP. Floaters and flashes. The University of Illinois – College of Medicine. Retrieved from chicago.medicine.uic.edu/departments/academic-departments/ophthalmology-visual-sciences/our-department/media-center/eye-facts/floaters/

[5] National Eye Institute. Diabetic retinopathy. Retrieved from www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/diabetic-retinopathy

[6] Kim J, Lee HJ, Park IW, Kwon SI. Comparison of floaters after cataract surgery with different viscoelastics. International Journal of Medical Sciences. 2018;15(3):223–7.


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