Floaters are shapes that people can see drifting across their vision. Floaters are small bits of debris floating in the vitreous jelly inside the eye. They can come in a variety of forms such as hair-like, small black dots, short squiggly lines, small fly-like or tadpoles, or even large cobweb shapes. Shortsighted people tend to suffer from them more, and they increase as we get older.

What causes Floaters?

The eye is filled with a clear jelly-like substance called vitreous. The vitreous sits behind the pupil and lens. The jelly is made mainly of water with a meshwork holding it together, and forms 80% of the eyeball volume. As we get older, a process known as vitreous syneresis occurs; the meshwork breaks down and lakes form. The solid portion of the gel forms debris. The debris casts shadows onto the retina, which we see as floaters.

Treatment options

Since floaters do not harm the eye, and in the vast majority of people, they do not cause a significant problem, and no treatment is generally recommended for them. This is because your brain constantly adapts to changes in your vision, and learns to ignore floaters so that they do not affect your vision.

In people with very severe floaters or in those who cannot adapt to them, the floaters can cause visual disturbances that affect their quality of vision. The persistent floaters can interfere with social, work and driving life. It is possible to carry out an operation to the eye to remove the vitreous gel (vitrectomy), which will also remove the floaters. A complete consultation is recommended with a specialist retinal surgeon, and you can be counselled about whether this operation is suitable for you. The “Floaters Only Vitrectomy” operation offers an excellent outcome in the vast majority of patients.