How To Get Rid of Eye Floaters

If you see small dark spots or lines across your vision, you may have eye floaters. Eye floaters are harmless substances that form naturally during the aging process, and generally don't require treatment. A large number of floaters in the eye or persisting floaters, however, could be a sign of an underlying condition.

Eye floaters are inside the eye, not on the surface of the eyeball, so actions like blinking or rubbing the eye won't help get rid of them. Someone who wants to be rid of floaters in the eye completely may opt to undergo surgery, though that's typically reserved for people with floaters caused by a medical condition.

What Are Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters generally refer to the dark spots, threads, squiggly or curving lines, and spider-like shapes that float in and out of your vision. The description of what they look like may differ from person to person.

Eye floaters are solidified clusters of cells or proteins in the gel-like liquid substance that fills the back of the eyeball, known as the vitreous. They form as the vitreous shrinks in the process of aging.

The spots you see are the shadows cast by these clumps on your retina, a thin layer of tissue that lines the back of your eyeball. You catch a glimpse of these floaters as they pass by the macula, the center of your eye's retina.

Causes of Eye Floaters

Most people end up seeing eye floaters as they age—about one-quarter of adults experience vitreous shrinkage once they hit their 60s, and that number rises to two-thirds among 80-year-olds.

While usually harmless, floaters in the eye can be uncomfortable and impact a person's ability to see and read, which could be especially troublesome for older people when driving or carrying out household tasks.

Those who have diabetes, are nearsighted, or recently had cataract surgery are at higher risk of getting eye floaters.

Less common causes of floaters in the eye include:

  • Eye infections
  • Eye injuries
  • Inflammation in the eye
  • Bleeding in the eye (where blood from the retina leaks into the vitreous)
  • Vitreous detachment (when the vitreous separates from the retina)
  • A retinal tear (when the process of vitreous detachment tears a hole in the retina)
  • Retinal detachment (when the process of vitreous detachment causes the retina to detach from its surrounding tissues)

Some researchers have also found a connection between stress and eye floaters. People with elevated psychological distress have been shown to have persistent eye floaters, and vice versa.

Diagnosing Eye Floaters

To make sure you actually have floaters in the eye, your optometrist or ophthalmologist will perform a dilated eye exam, where they will give you eye drops that widen your pupil. This allows them to see if you have any floaters passing through the center of your eye.

Your healthcare provider will ask you for more specific details about the floaters in your eye. Some of the questions they may ask include:

  • When did you first notice the eye floaters?
  • What do your eye floaters look like and how many do you usually see at a time?
  • How often do you experience eye floaters?
  • Have you ever seen flashes in your vision?
  • Have you had any eye surgeries in the past?
  • Have you ever had an eye injury?
  • Are any parts of your vision covered (think of a curtain in front of your eyes)?
  • Do you see any shadows in your peripheral vision?
  • Do you have any autoimmune diseases?
  • Are you diabetic?

Your eye care provider will also check to see if you have any retinal tears in case the floaters are caused by a more serious problem. If floaters are a problem you keep experiencing, your optometrist or ophthalmologist may recommend that you receive regular eye exams.

Optometrist or Ophthalmologist?

  • Optometrists provide primary eye care, which includes performing eye exams, diagnosing certain eye conditions, and prescribing medications for them.
  • Ophthalmologists treat diseases of the eye and perform eye surgery.
  • Your choice will largely be based on personal preference. You may want to see an ophthalmologist if you are at high risk for certain conditions, like cataracts, or have a condition that may affect your eyesight, such as diabetes.

Eye floaters caused by a medical condition will be referred to an ophthalmologist for further evaluation and surgical treatment. Although rare, floaters in the eye can occasionally be caused by a serious condition called retinal detachment. When the retina gets torn off or pulled away from the eye, it can cause:

  • Flashes of light
  • Additional floaters
  • A dark shadow in your peripheral vision
  • A blurry covering over your vision

Retinal detachment is a serious condition that can result in permanent vision loss if left untreated, so you should contact an ophthalmologist right away if you experience any of the above symptoms.

Your ophthalmologist will look for retinal detachment by performing a dilated eye exam, where they put drops in your eye to dilate the pupil and look for any changes in your retina. If a diagnosis of retinal detachment is confirmed, they may perform pneumatic retinopexy, vitrectomy, or scleral buckle surgery to put the retina back into place.

How To Get Rid of Eye Floaters

The most common and safest way to get rid of eye floaters is to do nothing. Floaters in the eye caused by aging are permanent, but they become less noticeable over time. If your eye floaters are not affecting your eye health, your eye care provider may not prescribe any treatment.

They will, however, continue to monitor the floaters with regular eye exams to keep track of how your vitreous is shrinking and to prevent any serious eye problems from developing later.

The most common and safest way to get rid of eye floaters is to do nothing.

How long it takes an eye floater to go away depends on the cause and severity of the floaters. They may go away in a matter of days or weeks. Moving your eyes up and down or right to left may get them to vanish temporarily.

Surgical Intervention

A surgery called a vitrectomy can be performed to remove floaters in the eye. This is reserved for the most severe cases where there are so many floaters that it's difficult to see. The surgery involves small incisions to remove the vitreous in the eye completely and replace it with a substance similar to the vitreous.

The procedure could potentially cause retinal detachment, retinal tears, cataracts, or damage to your eyesight. There is also a possibility that some floaters may remain in the eye. Due to these concerns, ophthalmologists will discuss the risks and benefits of this elective surgery if you are considering this treatment option for your eye floaters.

A Word From Verywell

While troublesome, eye floaters are generally not a cause for concern and have minimal impact on your eye health. Given time, you will most likely stop noticing these floating objects in your eye.

That said, it's always a good idea to get floaters or any sudden vision change checked out by your eye care provider. Even if the floaters in the eye are not impeding your ability to carry out day-to-day tasks, monitoring them with your eye healthcare provider can give you peace of mind and help you catch any serious condition early.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Cleveland Clinic. Eye Floaters & Flashes.

  2. Harvard Health Publishing. What you can do about floaters and flashes in the eye.

  3. NIH National Eye Institute. At a glance: Floaters.

  4. Kim YK, Moon SY, Yim KM, Seong SJ, Hwang JY, Park SP. Psychological distress in patients with symptomatic vitreous floatersJournal of Ophthalmology. 2017;2017:1-9.

  5. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Retinal Detachment: Diagnosis and Treatment.

By Brian Mastroianni
Brian Mastroianni is a health and science journalist based in New York. His work has been published by The Atlantic, The Paris Review, CBS News, The TODAY Show, Barron's PENTA, Engadget and Healthline, among others.