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What is an eye floater? Symptoms, causes, treatment and more

Floaters can be annoying, but they are usually harmless. A sudden increase in floaters, however, can sometimes signal a problem.
/ Source: NBC News

Most people have eye floaters that they learn to ignore, but often notice when looking at a blank wall, white paper or blue sky, according to the National Eye Institute.

What is an eye floater?

Floaters are tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous, the gel-like substance that fills your eye. When you notice them in your field of vision, what you’re actually seeing are the shadows that these clumps cast on your retina, the American Academy of Ophthalmology explained.

Floaters are more common with age, and among people who are nearsighted, have had cataract surgery or have had inflammation inside the eye.

What does an eye floater look like?

They can look like spots, thread-like strands or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and usually drift when your eyes stop moving, settling below the line of sight. They scurry away if you try to look directly at them.

Are floaters in the eye dangerous?

Floaters can be annoying, but they are usually harmless. The National Eye Institute calls them “simply an annoyance” in most cases.

But a sudden increase in floaters — potentially accompanied by flashes and loss of peripheral vision — could be the warning sign of a retinal detachment, a condition where the retina becomes separated from its normal position in the back of the eye. It’s a medical emergency because it could lead to blindness if left untreated.

Will eye floaters go away?

Floaters tend to fade or go away over time, the American Academy of Ophthalmology noted.

How long does it take for eye floaters to go away?

They tend to diminish gradually over weeks or months, but often do not go away completely, according to the Digital Journal of Ophthalmology.

How do I get rid of floaters in my vision?

Severe floaters that seriously interfere with vision can be removed by surgery, but this is rarely necessary, the American Academy of Ophthalmology noted. No treatment is recommended for floaters that are simply annoying.