ZocdocAnswersAre eye floaters caused by an eye disease?

Question

Are eye floaters caused by an eye disease?

I don't pay much attention to my eye floaters, they come and go and it's been happening for years. But I'm beginning to wonder if maybe a more serious eye problem is going on.

Answer

Eye floaters are a common visual abnormality that develops as people age and it is important to discuss it with an ophthalmologist. There is a large cavity within the eye, between the lens and the retina, where a refractive fluid called the vitreous humour exists. The vitreous humor is composed of 99% water and 1% dissolved solids. As we age, the vitreous humor can contract. This contraction of the vitreous humour can cause some of the dissolved solids, such as collagen, to come out of solution and form the linear floaters we begin to see lurking around the corners of our vision as we grow older. In the large majority of cases (probably greater than 98% of the time) floater are harmless imperfections in the vitreous humor that warrant no specific treatment. However, in rare cases, floaters can be a symptoms associated with a significant eye problem. Floaters, and another type of visual phenomenon called flashers, can be seen when a breaking down or breaking away occurs in a membrane that covers the retina. Rarely, this process can pull away part of the retina, called retinal detachment, which is a very serious eye disorder that requires immediate medical attention, as it can lead to blindness. This occurs in a very small minority of cases. However, it is impossible to tell on your own, so it is important to see an ophthalmologist as soon as possible for a full eye examination if you are seeing floaters, small sparkles or flashes in your vision, or any dots that spread across your visual field. These may be signs of a developing visual problem that requires medical treatment and can only be detected by an ophthalmologist performing a complete eye examination.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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