Main Office

Dr. Black's Eye Associates of Southern Indiana
302 W. 14th Street, Suite 100A
Jeffersonville, IN 47130
Phone: (812) 284-0660
Monday—Friday | 8 a.m.– 5 p.m.

Vision Surgical Center

Dr. Black's Eye Associates of Southern Indiana
302 West 14th Street, Suite 100B
Jeffersonville, IN 47130
Phone: (812) 284-1700
Monday—Friday | 8 a.m.– 5 p.m.

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Floaters

What is a floater?

Floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when your eyes stop moving.

What causes floaters?

In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process and are simply an annoyance. They can be distracting at first, but eventually tend to “settle” at the bottom of the eye, becoming less bothersome.

They usually settle below the line of sight and do not go away completely. Most people have floaters and learn to ignore them; they are usually not noticed until they become numerous or more prominent. Floaters can become apparent when looking at something bright, such as white paper or a blue sky.

Floaters occur when the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills about 80% of the eye and helps it maintain a round shape, slowly shrinks. As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina. These are floaters.

Floaters are more likely to develop as we age and are more common in people who are very nearsighted, have diabetes, or who have had cataract surgery. There are other more serious causes of floaters, including infection, inflammation, and uveitis.

Sometimes a section of the vitreous pulls the fine fibers away from the retina all at once, rather than gradually, causing many new floaters to appear suddenly. This is called a vitreous detachment, which in most cases is not sight-threatening and requires no treatment.

What can be done about floaters?

For people who have floaters that are simply annoying, no treatment is recommended. On rare occasions, floaters can be so dense and numerous that they significantly affect vision. In these cases a vitrectomy may be needed.

A vitrectomy removes the vitreous gel, along with its floating debris, from the eye. The vitreous is replaced with a salt solution. Because the vitreous is mostly water, you will not notice any change between the salt solution and the original vitreous. This operation carries significant risks to sight because of possible complications, which include retinal detachment, retinal tears, and cataract. Most eye surgeons are reluctant to recommend this surgery unless the floaters seriously interfere with vision.

Can floaters ever be a sign of trouble?

Most floaters are simply annoying. However, sudden increase in floaters, possibly accompanied by light flashes or peripheral (side) vision loss, could indicate a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment occurs when any part of the retina, the eye’s light-sensitive tissue, is lifted or pulled from its normal position at the back wall of the eye.

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