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What are Eye Floaters?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: Mar 03, 2024

Eye floaters can appear as small spots in front or to the sides of the eyes that are seen only by the person experiencing them. They are often momentary and may be most noticeable when one looks at a blank wall. They are caused by small clumps forming in the vitreous, the gel inside the eye.

The clumps that cause floaters may be made up of proteins, or cells of the vitreous. As we age, the gel that forms that makes up the vitreous can clump more easily, producing them with greater regularity.

People with migraines frequently see eye floaters, which may be accompanied by flashes of light, just prior to getting a migraine. For people who suffer from migraines, they indicate that one should take prescribed migraine medication promptly. Taking migraine medication at the onset of a migraine tends to be more effective.

Eye floaters may also be a symptom occurring after cataract or laser surgery, or if the eye is inflamed from infections like conjunctivitis. They may also be caused by an injury to the eye or inflammation due to a foreign body on the outside of the eye.

Though seeing eye floaters occasionally is quite common, it is not common for them to be accompanied with flashes of light, unless one has migraines. If one does not have migraines and floaters plus flashes of light are noted, this warrants investigation by a medical professional. This is especially the case if you notice a loss in peripheral vision.

These symptoms taken together may indicate some very serious conditions causing the eye floaters. For example, eye disease caused by diabetes is often indicated initially by seeing a lot of floaters. As well, they may indicate the onset of retinal detachment or a retinal tear. They may also point to problems with the veins or carotid artery disease in some cases. When these conditions are not addressed, eye damage can occur or, in the case of vascular or carotid artery disease, eye floaters may indicate likelihood for stroke or heart attack.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By seag47 — On Oct 31, 2012

@shell4life – I wish mine were as harmless as yours. When I get eye floaters in my vision, it means I'm about to have a migraine.

What's weird is that I don't have the kind with pain. I have the sort of migraine that affects vision only, and it always goes away after about twenty-five minutes.

It starts with a few floaters, and then the floaters begin to flash purple. Within a minute or so, I have lost most of my vision on one side.

So, I could look at a person's face and only see details of their left side. It is nearly impossible to read while experiencing these flashing floaters, because such a big chunk of information is blotted out.

By shell4life — On Oct 31, 2012

I never thought much about the causes of my eye floaters. They are not always present, so I am not preoccupied with them.

They look like clear macaroni noodles filled with peas. That is the best way I know to describe them.

They move all around my field of vision, and when I blink, they change position. Sometimes, they disappear entirely.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 30, 2012

Wow, I had no idea that eye floaters and flashes could be so serious! All my life, I've heard people say that those are “just floaters,” like they are nothing to be alarmed by.

This article makes me want to keep my appointment for a yearly eye exam. I was considering canceling, since there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with my vision, but now, I think it's best to get examined regularly, especially since I have floaters.

By anon202087 — On Aug 01, 2011

I've had them for as long as i can remember and I'm 15. I'm just wondering are they dangerous? My grandpa has them and he's 76. I've asked my doctors about them and nothing. Anyone know anything about them?

By lilacs — On May 24, 2011

I am 66 and over the last year get these clear spiderweb floaters. Not all the time -- mostly when I read, do close work or look down. Does anyone get similar? I mentioned it when I had my last eye examination but he just said it was floaters.

By anon89599 — On Jun 11, 2010

Eye floaters are dangerous.

By anon65761 — On Feb 15, 2010

I experienced the exact same thing as "anon9075." Right after getting my eyes dilated, I notice large stringy floaters the next day.

By gusconte63 — On Apr 26, 2009

i have had an eye floater in my left eye since i was a child. i am now 63yrs of age and still see it. also when it is bright outside i close my eyes tight and i can still see the floater. as i move my eyes when closed the floater moves very strange.

By anon9075 — On Feb 27, 2008

I just had my eyes dilated and after the drops noticed a hazy mass in my right eye. It moves around and I am told it is a floater. It is very distracting and aggravating. I went back in to have it checked out and he dilated my right eye again and it appears to be worse. Is there something in the drops that can cause this? Have you heard of this before?

By anon7201 — On Jan 20, 2008

I just noticed some floaters in my left eye, i went to the eye doctor and he did a dilated pupil exam, and he said that they were floaters caused by myopia or an injury. so i was wondering if there had been a problem with the carotid artery, would the dr. had noticed that, and how do they see that there is a problem with the artery if they are looking at the eye?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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