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Should You Be Worried About Those Pesky Eye Floaters?

Even if you’ve never noticed eye floaters, you probably have a few—they are small spots that drift around in your vision. “They may look like circles, strings, or even cobwebs,” said Jillian Wang, MD, a comprehensive ophthalmologist with Banner – University Medicine Ophthalmology Clinic in Tucson, AZ.

You might see them when you’re looking at the sky, a light-colored wall or your computer monitor. They can pop up in your peripheral vision and if they catch your attention and you try to look at them, they drift away. You’re more likely to get them if you’re nearsighted, or as you age.

Here’s what typically causes eye floaters

Eye floaters develop when the jelly-like substance that fills your eyes, called the vitreous humor, shrinks and condenses, Dr. Wang said. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to prevent them.

You might find eye floaters annoying, but they are almost always harmless, and they usually don’t need treatment. In very rare cases, if they’re significantly interfering with your vision, they can be removed with surgery.

Signs your eye floaters might need expert evaluation

“Eye floaters that require treatment are usually associated with other eye conditions,” Dr. Wang said. Watch for these symptoms that could point to an eye problem:

  • Sudden, numerous eye floaters
  • Flashes of light
  • Decreased vision
  • Curtains or shadows in the vision
  • Eye pain
  • Floaters after trauma to the eye

Light flashes or shadows could be signs of a tear or detachment in your retina. You should seek care right away—an ophthalmologist can dilate your eye to look for damage and perform laser treatment or surgery if necessary. Acting quickly can increase your odds of preserving your vision.

Diabetes or trauma can also cause eye floaters that stem from inflammation or bleeding in the eye, and they need to be evaluated and treated.

The bottom line

Eye floaters are common, and they might be a nuisance, but they’re usually not anything to worry about. If you have a lot of floaters that appear suddenly, or other eye symptoms along with eye floaters, seek medical care right away. To find an ophthalmologist, visit bannerhealth.com.

For more information about eye care and conditions, try these articles:

Eye Care Infographics Senior Health

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