Column by Eilis Dolan, Advanced Eye Care, Ballinamore

Taking care of your eyes - What are floaters?

Leitrim Observer reporter


Leitrim Observer reporter


Taking care of your eyes - What are floaters?

Floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision.


Floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly.

Most people have floaters and learn to ignore them; they are usually not noticed until they become more prominent. Floaters can become apparent when looking at something bright, such as a white background.

Floaters and Retinal Detachment

Sometimes a section of the vitreous away from the retina all at once, rather than gradually, causing many new floaters to appear suddenly. This is called a vitreous detachment, which in most cases is not sight-threatening and requires no treatment.

However, a sudden increase in floaters, possibly accompanied by light flashes or peripheral (side) vision loss, could indicate a retinal detachment. A retinal detachment occurs when a part of the retina is lifted or pulled from its normal position at the back wall of the eye.

A retinal detachment is a serious condition and should always be considered an emergency. If left untreated, it can lead to permanent visual impairment within two or three days.

Those who experience a sudden increase in floaters, flashes of light in peripheral vision, or a loss of peripheral vision should have an eye care professional examine their eyes as soon as possible.

What causes floaters?

Floaters occur when the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills about 80 percent of the eye and helps it maintain a round shape, slowly shrinks. It becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina. These are floaters.

In most cases, floaters are part of the natural aging process and simply an annoyance. They usually settle below the line of sight and do not go away completely.

However, there are other, more serious causes of floaters, including infection, inflammation (uveitis), hemorrhaging, retinal tears, and injury to the eye.

Who is at risk for floaters?

Floaters are more likely to develop as we age and are more common in people, who are very short sighted, have diabetes, or who have had a cataract operation.

How are floaters treated?

For people who have floaters that are simply annoying, no treatment is recommended.

On rare occasions, floaters can be so dense and numerous that they significantly affect vision. In these cases, a vitrectomy, a surgical procedure that removes floaters from the vitreous, may be needed. Most eye surgeons are reluctant to recommend this surgery unless the floaters seriously interfere with vision.

If you are experience new floaters or have any concerns at all please call Advanced Eye Care Ballinamore on 0876188763 to book your appointment.

You are entitled to a FREE eye examination every two years or every year if you have a change in your vision under the medical card scheme and employers PRSI scheme. Did you know that self- employed can now avail of optical treatment benefit too? Phone Eilis Dolan, Optometrist on 087688763 for more information about your optical benefits.