Eye floaters are little specks or strands that appear to move across the eye. They are extremely common, especially as people age; according to the Harvard Health Blog, about two-thirds of people develop floaters by the time they are 80 years old. For most people, floaters are harmless.
What Are Floaters?
A floater is an impurity in the vitreous humour—the clear gel that fills the inside of the eyeball. Eye floaters can be composed of tiny clusters of cells or protein. When you see a floater, what you are actually seeing is the shadow of the matter as it blocks light from hitting the retina. You can only see floaters if they move. Blood vessels in the eye create similar shadows, but the brain tunes them out because they are stable.
Floaters increase with age and are more common in patients with myopia (nearsightedness) and those who have undergone cataract surgery. Eye trauma or other damage can also cause floaters.
Are Eye Floaters a Problem?
Floaters in themselves are not dangerous or particularly problematic. However, a sudden onset or increase may indicate a serious health problem, such as a retinal tear, which is not painful and can cause permanent vision loss if left untreated. If floaters are accompanied by a restriction of the visual field or a loss of vision, you should seek medical care immediately.
If you have normal floaters that seem to have always been there or come on slowly, they are probably no cause for concern—though you may want to mention them to your eye doctor at your next eye exam. Some people find them irritating, while many find that their floaters go away or become less noticeable with time. Laser treatment is available but rarely recommended given the general benignity of floaters. For temporary relief, shift your eyes from side to side and up and down repeatedly.
If I Have Floaters, Am I a Candidate for LASIK?
Yes. Eye floaters do not affect LASIK. However, LASIK is not a treatment for floaters, and if you have floaters you are likely to have them for the rest of your life. Ultimately, the appropriateness of LASIK varies by individual; call to schedule a free consultation and discuss with an eye care professional if LASIK is the solution for your vision problems.