What causes floaters in the eye?

Written by cindi pearce | 13/05/2017
What causes floaters in the eye?

They can pop up out of nowhere, those floaters that suddenly appear in front of your eyes. Actually, the floaters aren't in front of our eyes, as it seems, but floating inside the eye, according to Eye-floaters.com. What we are seeing are shadows that the floaters cast on the retina. The retina is at the back of the eye and is the nerve layer. It senses light and enables us to see.

Common Among Older People

Eye floaters look like black or grey specks, strings or cobwebs that float about when you move your eyes. Floaters are common among older people because they are age-related. They result when the vitreous substance in our eyes becomes more liquid.


According to the Mayo Clinic, vitreous is the substance that helps maintain the round shape of an eye. Fine fibres, by the millions, are intertwined in the vitreous. These fibres are attached to the retina. As we get older, the vitreous partially liquefies. When this occurs, the substance pulls away from the interior wall of the retina and even shrinks. When the vitreous sags and shrinks, it bunches up and gets stringy, and the bits of this debris results in the floaters that block the light that passes through our eyes, casting shadows on the retina. If you see flashes of light, this means that the fibres are tugging on the retina.


Eye floaters can be a symptom of iritis, according to Regionalmedicalclinic.com. Iritis is the inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, which is called the uvea. The iris is the coloured part of your eye. It lies behind the cornea, which is transparent. Treatment might include eye drops or steroid medications.


Dr. Chan Lowe of Doctorslounge.com says that getting the occasional floater is not cause for concern; however, persistent floaters might indicate that another problem is present. If there are issues with the retina, this can cause floaters to show up. Floaters can also be an indication of a pending headache. Floaters are also associated with high blood pressure.

When to Contact Your Doctor

If you have floaters that appear suddenly and you notice loss of side vision, see your eye doctor immediately. You need to know if your retina is torn. Most of the time, floaters are harmless, but they can be extremely annoying, especially when you are trying to read. Lowe advises looking up and then looking down to move the floaters out of the way.

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