Eye Floaters

  • Medical Author:
    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, FACS

    Andrew A. Dahl, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist. Dr. Dahl's educational background includes a BA with Honors and Distinction from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT, and an MD from Cornell University, where he was selected for Alpha Omega Alpha, the national medical honor society. He had an internal medical internship at the New York Hospital/Cornell Medical Center.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What are the risk factors for developing eye floaters?

Increasing age is a significant risk factor for the development of symptoms of floaters. Being nearsighted (myopic) is a risk factor for eye floaters occurring earlier in life. The process of vitreous syneresis is accelerated in eyes that are highly myopic, and posterior vitreous detachments occur at a younger age in people who are significantly nearsighted. Diabetes is a risk factor for the development of eye floaters that arise due to diabetic retinopathy. Eye injury is an additional risk factor.

Are eye floaters dangerous?

Eye floaters can be annoying and may be anxiety-provoking, but by themselves they are not dangerous. The majority of eye floaters are caused by normal aging changes within the eye. However, a person developing the sudden appearance of eye floaters should be checked by an ophthalmologist to make certain that there is no associated eye abnormality or systemic disease that requires treatment. A sudden onset of many eye floaters or the onset of eye floaters associated with flashing lights could signify a retinal tear that requires treatment to prevent retinal detachment. A curtain or cloud in the vision or a loss of side vision could be a symptom of associated retinal detachment.

What types of doctors treat eye floaters?

If you develop floaters, you should be examined promptly by a professional trained in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease. These include ophthalmologists and optometrists.

An ophthalmologist is a medical doctor who is specialized in eye and vision care. Most ophthalmologists in the United States are board certified by the American Board of Ophthalmology after taking a rigorous written and oral test. They can deliver total eye care, including performing a complete eye examination, prescribing eyeglasses and contact lenses, diagnosing and treating eye diseases, and performing surgery on the eyes and the area around the eye.

An optometrist is a doctor of optometry, an OD. To become an optometrist, one must complete pre-professional undergraduate college education followed by four years of professional education in a college of optometry. Optometrists are licensed by the individual states to practice optometry, just as physicians are licensed to practice medicine by the individual states. Optometrists can perform an eye examination and can determine the presence of vision-related problems. They can also prescribe eyeglasses and contact lenses. Depending on the state in which they practice, optometrists may be allowed to treat eye diseases and prescribe eyedrops for various conditions, but they are not trained or licensed to perform surgery in an operating room.

It is important that the eye-care professional dilate both pupils with eyedrops and examine the entire eye, including the vitreous and the retina, when looking for eye floaters.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/3/2016

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