May 30th, 2011
07:49 AM ET

What are eye floaters?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Mondays, it's pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu.

Asked by Paul from New York

I'm 39 years old and have had a few floaters in both eyes for as long as I can remember. I go to the eye doctor every year for my glasses but forget to ask about these floaters. What causes them? Do I need to worry?

Expert answer

Thanks for your question. Floaters, or little spots or thread-like objects, can be seen particularly well if your eyes are moving and looking at something bright, such as a page on a computer screen or a blue sky.

Most of the time, they do not cause any problems. For more details, I consulted Dr. Ravi Goel, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Regional Eye Associates in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and an instructor with the Wills Eye Institute Cataract and Primary Eye Care Service in Philadelphia.

Goel describes the following analogy about floaters: Imagine the central part of the eye (the vitreous gel) as being a solid ball of ice or solid clear gelatinous material when you're born.

As you grow older, that ball of ice starts to turn into a liquid and starts to pull on the retina, the innermost part of the back of the eyeball. This process can lead to flashes (from the tugging of the gel-like material along the nerve layer of the retina) or floaters (cells that float in the central part of the eye and are seen by the central retina, called the macula).

Flashes and floaters may also be a sign of an ophthalmic migraine, which Goel says is similar to an aura of a migraine headache but without the pain.

The retina examination can be completely normal and ophthalmologists will send patients for a medical evaluation. Patients are typically evaluated for underlying headache, which may include cardiac and carotid evaluation.

If the gel-like material tugs too hard, there may be a sudden shower of floaters, which is a sign of a possible retinal detachment. This can happen in patients who have had recent trauma or surgery, are nearsighted (myopic), or who have sudden loss of central or peripheral vision, flashes or hazy vision.

These patients should be evaluated immediately. Goel recommends that anyone with floaters receive an initial ophthalmic consultation that includes pupil dilation - an evaluation that it sounds like you have already had.

Patients should review their symptoms and also possible triggers (such as coffee, chocolate and stress) that might suggest a migraine. It can be helpful to keep a journal of repeat episodes.

When a floater-like episode begins, Goel suggests immediately covering each eye to determine if it occurs in one eye or both, and documenting the time of day, activity and possible stressing events.

If you have any of the concerning symptoms or have further questions, be sure to consult your ophthalmologist. Good luck!

Follow Dr. Shu on Twitter

soundoff (821 Responses)
  1. Jarred Mccready


    June 11, 2021 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Federated Financial

    this is very informative and intersting for those who are interested in blogging field.


    June 11, 2021 at 00:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. raleigh car body shop

    Thanks for wonderful information I used to be in search of this info for my mission.


    June 11, 2021 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Katheryn Goeltz


    June 11, 2021 at 03:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. rv repair


    June 11, 2021 at 08:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Joseph Budke

    This site was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Cheers!


    June 11, 2021 at 11:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Noel Colyott


    June 11, 2021 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Ellyn Garber

    I quite like looking through a post that will make men and women think. Also, thank you for allowing me to comment!

    June 11, 2021 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Sherri Glovier

    Very nice write-up. I absolutely love this site. Thanks!


    June 11, 2021 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. semi truck shop near me

    This is a topic that's close to my heart... Thank you! Where are your contact details though?


    June 11, 2021 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. course near me

    You are so cool! I do not think I have read anything like this before. So good to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Really.. many thanks for starting this up. This website is something that is required on the internet, someone with a little originality!


    June 11, 2021 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. RV Technician Riverside

    I love it whenever people get together and share opinions. Great website, continue the good work!


    June 11, 2021 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Ford Cargo Van Repair


    June 11, 2021 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Alternator Mercedes Sprinter 2016 Repair


    June 11, 2021 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Pop Up Trailer Repairs


    June 12, 2021 at 00:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. oc rv dealers


    June 12, 2021 at 01:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. raleigh auto body shops

    Impressive! Thanks for the post


    June 12, 2021 at 01:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. after school program in crofton md

    Really very happy to say,your post is very interesting to read.I never stop myself to say something about it.You're doing a great job.Keep it up


    June 12, 2021 at 02:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. after school programs crofton

    A great read. I'll definitely be back.


    June 12, 2021 at 02:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. indoor rv storage orange county ca


    June 12, 2021 at 08:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. RV Shades Orange County

    After checking out a few of the blog articles on your site, I really appreciate your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my website too and let me know how you feel.


    June 12, 2021 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Touring Van Repair Shop

    I couldnít resist commenting. Perfectly written!


    June 12, 2021 at 10:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Mercedes Sprinter Van Service Near Me


    June 12, 2021 at 10:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Van Rust Repair


    June 12, 2021 at 11:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. catering near me

    Hi there! I simply would like to offer you a huge thumbs up for the great information you have right here on this post. I will be coming back to your web site for more soon.


    June 12, 2021 at 15:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. restaurants that deliver near me


    June 12, 2021 at 18:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. ross near me


    June 12, 2021 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. used trucks for sale near me

    There's definately a great deal to find out about this issue. I like all the points you made.


    June 12, 2021 at 20:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. book store near me

    May I just say what a comfort to find someone who actually knows what they are discussing on the web. You definitely understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. More and more people need to look at this and understand this side of your story. I was surprised that you are not more popular given that you certainly have the gift.


    June 12, 2021 at 23:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. restaurants near me now

    You made some good points there. I looked on the net for more info about the issue and found most individuals will go along with your views on this web site.


    June 13, 2021 at 00:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. mall near me

    You should take part in a contest for one of the best websites on the net. I will highly recommend this blog!


    June 13, 2021 at 03:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. handyman near me

    Having read this I thought it was really informative. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this information together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!


    June 13, 2021 at 05:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. hair salon near me


    June 13, 2021 at 05:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. funeral homes near me


    June 13, 2021 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. cheap hotels near me

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular article! It's the little changes that make the largest changes. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 13, 2021 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. lunch near me

    You are so interesting! I do not suppose I've truly read through anything like this before. So wonderful to discover somebody with some genuine thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is needed on the internet, someone with some originality!


    June 13, 2021 at 18:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. qdoba near me

    Having read this I believed it was very informative. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this information together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    June 13, 2021 at 23:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. fedex drop off near me

    I couldnít refrain from commenting. Well written!


    June 13, 2021 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. spectrum near me


    June 14, 2021 at 02:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. caseys near me


    June 14, 2021 at 04:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. recreational dispensary near me


    June 14, 2021 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. pizza deals near me

    Howdy! This article couldnít be written much better! Going through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I most certainly will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a very good read. Thank you for sharing!


    June 14, 2021 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. printer near me

    That is a really good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Brief but very precise informationÖ Appreciate your sharing this one. A must read post!


    June 14, 2021 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. estate sales near me

    You need to be a part of a contest for one of the highest quality websites on the web. I'm going to recommend this website!


    June 14, 2021 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Camper Repair Near Me

    Great web site you have here.. Itís hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 14, 2021 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Camper Repair Shop Near Me


    June 14, 2021 at 23:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Nearby RV Repairs


    June 15, 2021 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me


    June 15, 2021 at 02:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. RV Repair Places Near Me

    I used to be able to find good info from your articles.


    June 15, 2021 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Nearby RV Repair

    After I originally commented I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I recieve four emails with the same comment. Is there an easy method you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!


    June 15, 2021 at 10:09 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Leave a Reply to Window Cleaning Service East Colfax, Denver, CO


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.