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What are floaters?

Floaters are shapes which people notice drifting across their vision.  They may take the form of small dots or appear as irregularly shaped strands. 

What is the cause of floaters?

The eye is filled by the vitreous, which is is a jelly-like substance.  Strands of collagen become visible within this as the vitreous ages and these swirl about when the eye moves. 

Posterior Vitreous Detachment

This occurs when the vitreous separates from the retina.  This can happen as we get older, usually over the age of 40. 

When posterior vitreous detachment happens, this pulls on the retina causing the eye to see flashes of bright white light and a possible sudden increase in the number of floaters seen. 

This may lead to retinal detachment which requires urgent referral to an eye specialist. 

Should I be worried about floaters?


In general one or two floaters seen in the vision, especially if they have been present for some time, should not be of too great a concern. 


However, if bright white lights (as described above) are experienced, together with a sudden increase in floaters, then it is important to have an urgent check with an eye doctor to ensure the retina is not detaching.


Can I have my floaters removed?

Unless there is a threat to sight, most surgeons would be reluctant to recommend this operation which, although technically possible by removing the vitreous (vitrectomy), carries significant risks to sight.  These risks include  possible complications such as retinal detachment and cataract.

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Page last updated on Saturday, 25 June 2005 12:36:22

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