What is it?

“Floaters" are characterized as the vision of mobile floating bodies in the form of points, shadows, wire, flies, fabrics or other, traveling through the visual field. It is one of the most frequent reasons for consultation during visits to the ophthalmologist.

Although the cause and effect hasn’t been verified precisely, age and myopia have been identified as the main predisposing factors. Structurally, floating bodies correspond to condensations (aggregated collagen fibers) formed on the transparent gel-like fluid that fills the eyeball, called the vitreous humor, and cast shadows on the retina with the passage of light. In most cases, these condensations are a consequence of the natural dehydration that the vitreous suffers.


It manifests itself as a set of spots, dots, or moving filaments (often in the form of web) suspended in the visual field. Characteristically, they move with eye movements and seem to flee when we try to look at them directly. They don’t usually follow exactly the movement of the eyes, and generally they have a slow movement when staring, as if they were "drifting". Floaters are very common, and most people learn to ignore their presence. Typically perceived with greater intensity when vision is fixed on a homogeneously illuminated surface, with a bright background (computer screen, reading or looking at the sky on a clear day).

The vitreous detachment also leads to the perception of floaters, usually of acute onset.

Myodesopsias of retinal appearance, or associated to the vision of flashes (photopsia), can constitute a very suspicious sign of a breakage in the retina.

The vision of floating bodies is also more common in people operated of cataract surgery, and those which have been subjected to a cleaning of the posterior capsule laser (capsulotomy). Less frequently, floaters can be part of the symptoms of a serious eye disease, whether of inflammatory origin (posterior uveitis), bleeding (vitreous hemorrhage from various sources) or tumor (intraocular tumors).


There is currently no effective medical treatment to permanently remove floaters.

In more extreme cases, where the mobile opacities significantly interfere with vision or become a psychologically intolerable problem, vitrectomy surgery might be indicated, whereby the vitreous gel is removed by condensation and replaced with a transparent physiological saline. Vitrectomy is a highly specialized and very effective intraocular surgery, performed under local anesthesia, and does not require stitches Nevertheless, the potential risks, although minimal, are only indicated in cases where symptoms are disabling for the patient.


In most cases, floaters are considered a normal and safe circumstances, that does not compromise vision. Often, the patient initially feels very distressed by this symptom; it appears and disappears depending on the backlight, and is usually exacerbates due to fatigue and the state of stress and anxiety of the person affected.

However, over time, the majority of people can adjust perfectly to the view of these small moving shadows. When floaters are very dense and have little mobility, they can cause a very symptomatic blurred vision, significantly compromising the quality of life of patients. It is recommended to consult a retina specialist ophthalmologist to assess all possible causes of the appearance of floaters.




  • Antonio Franco
    "In parallel to their skilled professional and entrepreneurial ophthalmology [...]
  • Xavier Trias
    "The Centro de Oftalmología Barraquer (Barraquer Ophthalmology Centre) was born [...]
  • Albert Om
    "The Barraquer Clinic is a independent mini-state visited by people from all [...]
  • See more