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Advanced Cataract Surgery

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What Is an Eye Floater?

Eye Floater Diagram for West Palm Beach & Jupiter, FL patients

Eye floaters are the specks that appear in your field of vision. They can be dark and tiny spots or appear like squiggly lines that resemble a cobweb. Because they move around in your eye, that information is sent to your brain and you perceive them in your line of sight; a stationery speck would be ignored by your brain.  

Signs & Symptoms of Eye Floaters

You will know you have eye floaters when these floating specks or strings become visible to you. If you try to focus on them, you will probably notice they move out of your line of sight. They are most likely to appear when you stare at a blank background like a white wall or the clear blue sky. Floaters come and go, and will not stay in a fixed position.  

What Causes Eye Floaters?

In most cases, eye floaters occur naturally as your eyes get older. Eye surgery or certain eye medications can also cause air bubbles to form in the vitreous, which leads to floaters. However, sometimes floaters can be indicative of a more serious problem, such as:

  • Retinal tear – When the retina is tugged at too forcefully by the vitreous, it can cause a tear. Left untreated, a tear can lead to a complete retinal detachment.
  • Internal eye bleeding – Following an injury, loose blood cells in the eye may be viewed as floaters.
  • Posterior uveitis – Inflammation occurring at the back of the eye can send debris into the vitreous, which appears as floaters.

How to Diagnose Eye Floaters

During a comprehensive eye examination, the team at Mittleman Eye will dilate your eyes to look for floaters and determine their root cause.

Eye Floater Risk Factors

Patients who are over 50 years old and have had eye inflammation, myopia (nearsightedness) or diabetic retinopathy, or who have previously had cataract surgery, are at increased risk of developing eye floaters.

Eye Floater Treatment

Some patients will find that their floaters go away on their own or do not pose a serious nuisance, and therefore do not require treatment. If floaters bother you, though, the most common treatment offered at Mittleman eye is a laser treatment known as laser vitreolysis that breaks up the floaters in your vitreous to make them less perceptible. Vitrectomy, a surgery that removes the vitreous and replaces it with a comparable substance (without floaters present) is another treatment option you can discuss with your ophthalmologist.  

Cost for Eye Floater Treatment

The cost of eye floater treatment varies, depending on whether one or both eyes are being treated and the type of treatment (laser or surgical) employed. Medical insurance may cover your floater treatment if the severity of your floaters is significant enough; please discuss this possibility with your doctor at Mittleman Eye. We accept financing through CareCredit to help patients who prefer to make payments toward the total cost.

Eye Floater FAQs

Is it possible for eye floaters to go away on their own?

Yes, over time, many people find that their brain adapts to floaters, making them less noticeable or bothersome. In some cases, floaters can settle at the bottom of the eye, effectively moving out of the line of sight. However, the timeline for this can vary widely among individuals.

When should I see a doctor about my eye floaters?

Eye Floaters in West Palm Beach

You can discuss floaters with your doctor whenever they become bothersome. With that said, you should definitely consult an eye doctor if you experience a sudden increase in floaters, especially if accompanied by flashes of light or any loss of peripheral vision. These symptoms could indicate a more serious condition requiring immediate attention. Be aware that floaters are not usually a sign of a medical problem, so you do not need to panic.

How does laser vitreolysis work for eye floaters?

Laser vitreolysis is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure designed to reduce or eliminate the visual disturbance caused by eye floaters. The procedure is performed using a YAG laser, which is focused onto the floaters within the vitreous, the gel-like substance filling the eye.

The patient sits facing the laser device, similar to sitting at an ophthalmoscope used in regular eye exams. Using a special lens placed on the eye, the doctor directs short pulses of laser energy at the floaters. This energy vaporizes the floaters or breaks them into smaller pieces, making them less noticeable or moving them out of the line of sight.

The procedure typically lasts 20 to 60 minutes, depending on the number and density of the floaters. Most patients can resume normal activities immediately, though they may need someone to drive them home.

How does screen time affect eye floaters?

Extended screen time doesn’t directly cause eye floaters, but it can lead to eye strain and dry eyes, which might make floaters more noticeable. Taking regular breaks using the 20-20-20 rule — every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds — can help reduce eye strain.

Is there a genetic predisposition to developing eye floaters?

Eye Floaters in Jupiter

There can be a genetic component to eye conditions that result in floaters, especially for issues related to the retina or vitreous degeneration. If you have a family history of eye diseases, regular check-ups are essential for early detection and management.

Are floaters the same as “seeing stars”?

No, floaters and “seeing stars” are not the same thing, although they are both visual phenomena.  “Seeing stars,” or photopsias, refers to the sensation of seeing flashing lights, streaks, or sparkles not caused by external light stimuli. These visual effects can be brief and are often described as flickering or shimmering lights.

Unlike floaters, “seeing stars” does not depend on eye movement and does not drift with gaze. They can appear in the dark, in light, or any visual field and are often transient, lasting seconds to minutes. Both phenomena are related to the eye’s perception of light and shadow, but they originate from different causes and have distinct characteristics.

Schedule an Appointment

To speak to one of Mittleman Eye’s outstanding doctors about your floaters and determine an appropriate course of action, please make an appointment online, or text or call (561) 500-2020. We are committed to helping you see more clearly.