Mayo Clinic Minute: What are eye floaters?

Jason Howland: Having vision problems? Do you see black or gray specks, strings or cobwebs that drift about when you move your eyes? It could be eye floaters.

Amir Khan, M.D., Consultant, Ophthalmology, Mayo Clinic: In the back of our eyes, we have a substance called "the vitreous." When we're young, it's a firm clump of jelly. As we age, this firm clump of jelly can liquefy and break up into smaller pieces. Those smaller pieces are what you may notice as floater.

Mr. Howland: Eye floaters are more common as you get older and if you're nearsighted. The biggest concern – they can cause retinal tears.

Dr. Khan: If a tear develops in the retina, fluid can get in underneath that tear and just lift the retina off like wallpaper off a wall and that's a retinal detachment.

Mr. Howland: And that can cause blindness, which is why it's especially important to have a dilated eye exam within days of noticing new floaters or changes in vision. Most eye floaters don't require treatment, but your eye doctor likely will recommend regular eye exams to ensure the condition doesn't worsen.

For the Mayo Clinic Newsnetwork, I'm Jason Howland.

Last Updated Mar 12, 2019


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