What are floaters and spots?

Floaters or spots are cloudy specks or particles within the fluid inside the eye that become noticeable when they move within the line of sight.  They may also appear with flashes of light.

What causes floaters?

The inner part of the eye is filled with a clear, jelly-like fluid called vitreous which maintains the shape of the eye, supplies it with nutrition and aids in the focusing of light. Small flecks of protein and other matter often become trapped during the formation of the eye, before birth, and remain in the vitreous body.  They may also be caused by age-related deterioration of the eye fluid or its surrounding parts, or by certain injuries and eye diseases. If you have floaters you should have a comprehensive eye test to determine their cause.

Does everyone have floaters?

Almost everyone sees a few floaters or spots at one time or another.  They can occur more frequently as you grow older.  If you notice a sudden change in the number or size of the floaters you should contact your optometrist for an eye test to ensure they are not the result of a more serious problem.

What do floaters look like?

Floaters are generally translucent specks of various shapes and sizes.  They may also appear as threadlike strands or cobwebs within the eye, dim or dark areas, or showers of crystals.  As they are within the eye, they move as the eye moves, and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly.

How are they detected?

During a complete eye examination conducted by your optometrist, an instrument called an ophthalmoscope is used to look inside the eye. The optometrist may detect floaters before you become aware of them. To give a better view of the inside of your eyes, your optometrist may use special drops to make the pupils larger; this is called dilation. If floaters indicate disease or other problems requiring care, your optometrist will refer you to the appropriate health care practitioner.

Can floaters cause blindness?

Most floaters are normal and rarely cause blindness. However, floaters can be indications of more serious problems, so if you see floaters you should have a complete eye examination to determine the cause.

If you notice a sudden increase in the number or size of floaters, or unusual flashes in your vision, you should have your eyes examined immediately.  These signs may indicate the early stages of a retinal detachment.

Visit or call one of our centres if you are concerned about the health of your eyes or would like to book an appointment for an eye examination.