Definition of Floater

Reviewed on 3/29/2021

Floater: A blurry spot that seems to drift in front of the eyes but does not block vision. The blur is the result of debris from the vitreous of the eye casting a shadow on the retina. The spot is the image formed by a deposit of protein drifting in the vitreous, the clear jelly-like substance that fills the middle of the eye.

Floaters are often described by patients as spots, strands, or little flies.

Floaters are usually benign (not serious). They often occur as the result of separation of the vitreous gel from the retina. This condition is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Although a PVD occurs commonly, retinal tears associated with the condition. The onset of new floaters particularly with flashing lights is an indication for an urgent eye exam to be sure there is no retinal tear.

No treatments are available for floaters although they tend to become less noticeable over time. Remember that although floaters are usually not associated with serious eye problems, new ones are an indication for an eye examination.

Permanent or recurring white or black spots in the same area of your field of vision may, however, be an early warning sign of cataracts or another serious eye problem. If you experience a shadow or curtain that affects any part of your vision, this can indicate that a retinal tear has occurred and has progressed to a detached retina. In this situation, you should immediately consult an ophthalmologist since time is of the essence.


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