Eye Floaters – What are they and what should you do

Post on 25th August 2022

TV presenter Phillip Schofield took to social media to share his joy at having surgery to remove floaters in his left eye after saying his struggle with them was debilitating.

Fortunately for most people the condition is not serious.

At Scrivens, with over 80 years of experience as a leading opticians in the UK, we’ve put together some handy information on what to look out for when it comes to floaters.

What are floaters and what should you do if you have them?

Floaters are small dark dots, squiggly lines or cobwebs in your eyes and are usually harmless. They appear to float in front of your eyes and move when you try to look at them. The NHS says it is not usually a sign of anything serious, especially if you’ve had them for a long time, they’re not getting worse and your vision is not affected.

What causes them?

Floaters are formed when the vitreous or jelly inside the eye separates into watery fluid and wavy collagen fibres. Lots of people, particularly older people, get floaters and flashes. Sometimes they can be caused by retinal detachment, which is serious and can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated. Floaters and flashes can also happen for no obvious reason.

Eye floaters can appear during pregnancy due to the increased water retention in the eyes that is caused by hormonal changes. The changes in eyesight during pregnancy are usually temporary and go away on their own

You should seek urgent advice and ask for an urgent opticians appointment or get help from NHS 111 if

  • you suddenly get floaters or flashes in your vision
  • the number of floaters or flashes suddenly increases
  • you have a dark “curtain” or shadow moving across your vision
  • you also have blurred vision
  • you also have eye pain
  • floaters start after eye surgery or an eye injury

 

These could be signs of a serious problem with the back of your eye, which could permanently affect your vision if not treated quickly. A check will determine if you need to be seen by an optometrist for more tests or treatment.

Almost everyone develops floaters as they get older, but you are at higher risk if you are very nearsighted, have diabetes or have had surgery to treat cataracts.

Treatment for floaters depends on the cause. If they are caused by another eye condition, you may need treatment for that condition. If they are caused by ageing and they do not bother you, treatment will probably not be required.

If, like Phillip Schofield, floaters make it hard to see clearly and interfere with your daily life you may opt for a vitrectomy to remove them when you have discussed the risks and benefits with your optometrist.

If you have any concerns about your eyes, you will find help and advice at your local Scrivens branch.

If you found this blog helpful, you may also be interested in learning more about preventing computer eye strain.

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