Eye floaters are spots in the vision. They may appear as black or gray specks, strings or cobwebs that drift about while moving the eyes. They also appear to dart away when attempting to look at them directly.

Eye floaters are mainly caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside the eyes becomes more liquid. Microscopic fibers within the vitreous clump and may cast tiny shadows on the retina, which appear as floaters.

A sudden increase in eye floaters requires prompt medical attention, especially if it is combined with peripheral vision loss or light flashes.



Symptoms of eye floaters may include:


  • Spots in the vision that appear as dark specks or knobby, transparent strings of floating material
  • Spots that move together with the eyes
  • Spots that are most noticeable while looking at a plain bright background
  • Spots that eventually settle down and drift out of the line of vision


Symptoms that require prompt medical attention:


  • More eye floaters than usual
  • Sudden onset of new floaters
  • Flashes of light
  • Peripheral vision loss



The possible causes of eye floaters include:


  • Age-related eye changes: increasing age causes the vitreous to partially liquefy and pull away from the eyeball’s interior surface. The vitreous then begins to clump and becomes stringy. Parts of this debris block some of the light passing through the eye and cast tiny shadows on the retina.
  • Inflammation in the back of the eye: this is also known as posterior uveitis that affects the layers of the uvea in the back of the eye and may cause eye floaters.
  • Bleeding in the eye
  • Torn retina: a sagging vitreous may tug on the retina with enough force to tear it. Untreated retinal tear may lead to retinal detachment while untreated retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.


Risk factors

Risk factors for eye floaters include:


  • Age (50 and over)
  • Nearsightedness
  • Eye trauma
  • Eye inflammation
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Complications from cataract surgery