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What do eye floaters mean?

The term, "floaters" refers to a condition in which small spots can be seen in your vision. They are tiny pieces of collagen or protein that form in the jelly-like substance in the middle part of your eye, known as the vitreous humour.

As you age, the vitreous humour separates from the retina. One of the most recognisable symptoms of floaters are long, thin strands that seem to 'float' across your field of vision. These can be see-through or look fairly solid. They can also take the form of small shadowy dots. They are painless and you might notice a few in your vision at any one time.

In very rare circumstances the retina can tear and detach, often with a sudden and noticeable change in floaters, requiring immediate treatment to protect your sight.

Symptoms of eye floaters

  • Small black spots in your vision
  • Shadowy dots in your vision
  • Long and thin strands in your vision
  • Floaters are most recognisable when you stare at a white surface or background. They can be any shape or size and can occur during the day and at night

Causes of eye floaters

  • The ageing process
  • Tearing of the retina
  • Detachment of retina
  • Floaters can affect people at any age. They are more common in older people

How do you treat eye floaters?

Treatment for floaters is normally not necessary. They are usually harmless and in most cases present no threat to your vision.Normally your brain will learn to ignore floaters, but larger ones can be distracting and can affect your vision.

YAG Laser treatment (Viterolysis) can be used to break up floaters and move them towards the edges of your eye. If floaters are significantly affecting your vision and don't clear up on their own, a type of surgery called a vitrectomy can be carried out. The procedure involves replacing the gel-like liquid in your eye with saline solution. This can help to eliminate any floaters that you may have.

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