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Floaters are spots or lines that appear in your vision. They are usually a harmless part of the aging process. However, in rare cases they can interfere with your vision. Floaters are also sometimes a symptom of a more serious eye problem.

The inside of your eye contains a clear, gel-like substance called vitreous. This material fills approximately 80 percent of the eye, but over time it shrinks and becomes slightly stringy. Floaters occur when tiny clumps in the vitreous cast shadows on the retina (light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). These clumps are usually bits of fiber from the vitreous.

Floaters drift when you move your eyes and typically disappear if you try to look directly at them. They are often shadow-like and are most visible when you look at a plain background, such as a wall. They can be annoying, especially at first.

You might see flashes along with floaters. These occur when the shrinking vitreous tugs at the retina. This is the same sensation that happens when you “see stars” after a blow to the head.

Other causes of floaters include infection, inflammation, bleeding and injuries.

Floaters are more common in people who:

If you have a sudden increase in floaters or flashes, you might have a detached retina, meaning your retina has moved from its normal position. A detached retina is a medical emergency because it can cause permanent vision problems.

Floaters in your vision are a common reason to visit an ophthalmologist. At Indiana University Health, we listen to your concerns and find out what is causing you to have floaters. The problem is usually not serious, and your brain may learn to ignore the floaters over time, making them less bothersome.

If your floaters are so numerous or large that they make it hard for you to see, you might be a candidate for a surgical procedure to remove them. We also look for more serious underlying causes of floaters and address them if needed. See your ophthalmologist right away if you suddenly experience these symptoms of a detached retina:

  • Increased number or size of floaters
  • Flashes
  • Shadows in your peripheral (side) vision
  • Decreased vision
  • Gray “curtain” moving across your vision

The ophthalmologists at IU Health are experts in diagnosing and treating floaters and a wide range of other eye conditions. Additionally, the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Eye Institute is the hub of research for eye diseases at the Indiana University School of Medicine, with scientists continually looking for better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat problems that affect your eyes.

How We Can Help

How We Can Help

Floaters Treatment Information

If you have floaters, we perform a thorough examination of your eyes with the main goal of finding any serious underlying problems. If your floaters are the result of normal aging-related changes in your eyes, you probably do not need treatment. However, treatment options are available in some cases. They include:

Floaters Locations & Physicians

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Floaters Support Services

Learn more about floaters at these websites: