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What are these floating things in my eye?

1 February 2021

From time to time, you may notice small objects floating in your field of vision. These can take the form of spots, shadows, clouds or longer strips, all of which may vary in size. Read on to learn more about eye floaters and what you should do if you get them. However, it is important to note that this information does not replace the individualised information that would be provided by a specialist Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon.

What causes eye floaters?

Floaters are the shadows of debris that floats in the jelly-like substance within your eyeball, known as the vitreous humour. You may not even notice them most of the time; however, they will usually become more obvious when looking at a light-coloured area.

Are eye floaters a problem?

If you only notice them occasionally, these floating objects are not an issue. As they will occur more frequently as part and parcel of getting older, you just have to learn to live with them! However, if you notice a sudden increase or change in the number or size of these floaters, or if they also accompany vision loss and sudden flashes, you should visit an optician to get checked out.
Similarly, if your normal floaters affect your vision or stop you concentrating on activities that require close visual attention, you may feel them to be a problem.

In very rare cases, floaters can be a symptom of retina complications. If the retina is torn or becomes detached, pigment cells from under the retina may migrate into the vitreous humour. In this instance, you will require urgent corrective surgery.

Please note, if you see a black shadow or curtain effect, or you suddenly lose vision, you should visit your nearest A&E without delay.

How can I prevent eye floaters?

If you are having mild problems with floaters, you could consider wearing dark glasses, which will make floaters less noticeable over time. It is also possible to have the vitreous humour removed and replaced with saline solution – your eye doctor will be able to advise you on your suitability for this operation.

Finally, we would recommend booking regular eye health check-ups, and discussing any changes you have noticed at these appointments.

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