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. Window Cleaning Service Berkeley, Denver, CO

    Keep this going please, great job!


    April 11, 2021 at 05:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Window Washing Service South Park Hill, Denver, CO

    Fairly high-quality explanation. continue the good work


    April 11, 2021 at 05:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Best Window Washing Service Near Me City Park, Denver, CO

    Great article. Couldn't be write much better! Keep it up!


    April 11, 2021 at 06:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Best Window Cleaning Service Near Me Capitol Hill, Denver, CO

    Thank You for your information


    April 11, 2021 at 07:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. AC Repair Orlando

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


    April 14, 2021 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. window cleaning denver

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


    April 15, 2021 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. house for sale athol idaho

    Everything is very open with a really clear clarification of the issues. It was truly informative. Your website is useful. Thank you for sharing!


    April 24, 2021 at 05:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Interior Designer Orange County

    I'm pretty pleased to uncover this great site. I want to to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely savored every bit of it and I have you saved to fav to check out new things on your web site.


    April 24, 2021 at 05:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Forklift Repair Shop Orange County

    I like it when folks come together and share thoughts. Great blog, continue the good work!


    April 24, 2021 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. horse trailer air conditioner

    You should take part in a contest for one of the highest quality sites online. I'm going to recommend this site!


    April 25, 2021 at 08:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. RV Slide Out Near Me


    April 25, 2021 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Roof Repair Raleigh

    I'm not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic.


    April 27, 2021 at 15:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Fake GMB


    April 27, 2021 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Nick's Air Conditioning And Heating Orlando FL

    very interesting , good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog.


    April 27, 2021 at 16:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. homes for sale harrison idaho


    April 27, 2021 at 22:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Debt Consolidation Company

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


    April 29, 2021 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Loan Consolidation Services

    A great read. I'll definitely be back.


    April 29, 2021 at 15:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Washing California

    I truly love your site.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you build this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my very own blog and want to know where you got this from or just what the theme is named. Thanks!


    May 4, 2021 at 14:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. horse trailer repair near me


    May 4, 2021 at 15:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. accountability membership


    May 4, 2021 at 20:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. truck service repair

    Having read this I believed it was rather informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and posting comments. But so what, it was still worthwhile!


    May 5, 2021 at 00:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. aika online private servers


    May 5, 2021 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Best Prescription Sunglasses

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am experiencing issues with your RSS. I don’t understand the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anybody else having similar RSS issues? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 5, 2021 at 03:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Driver Seats Near Me


    May 5, 2021 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. RV Countertops Orange County

    After looking over a handful of the articles on your web page, I honestly appreciate your way of blogging. I bookmarked it to my bookmark site list and will be checking back soon. Please visit my website as well and let me know what you think.


    May 5, 2021 at 06:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. health training


    May 5, 2021 at 09:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. online meditation group

    Great article! We are linking to this great content on our site. Keep up the great writing.


    May 5, 2021 at 13:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Airgun megastore

    Great article. Couldn't be write much better! Keep it up!


    May 5, 2021 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Self defense Crofton MD

    carry on, dont stop


    May 5, 2021 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Debt Programs

    A great read. I'll definitely be back.


    May 5, 2021 at 18:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. massages near me


    May 5, 2021 at 20:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. mercedes metris cargo van

    The very next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, Yes, it was my choice to read through, but I truly thought you'd have something useful to talk about. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you weren't too busy looking for attention.


    May 6, 2021 at 02:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. RV Flooring Los Angeles


    May 6, 2021 at 10:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Eye Specialist Near Me


    May 6, 2021 at 10:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. caterpillar truck repair


    May 6, 2021 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Lasik Phoenix

    I love looking through a post that can make people think. Also, thanks for allowing for me to comment!


    May 6, 2021 at 12:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. camping near me

    Hi, I do believe this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I'm going to come back once again since i have book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.


    May 6, 2021 at 13:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. beach near me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. remodeling near me

    I was able to find good advice from your articles.


    May 6, 2021 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Forklift Service Shop Orange County

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was doing a little research on this. And he in fact bought me dinner simply because I discovered it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending time to talk about this issue here on your web page.


    May 6, 2021 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. White Wine Companies

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and interesting, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which not enough men and women are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy that I found this in my hunt for something relating to this.


    May 6, 2021 at 18:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Forklift Cylinders California


    May 6, 2021 at 21:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. panera bread near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously feel this website needs far more attention. I’ll probably be returning to see more, thanks for the info!


    May 7, 2021 at 04:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. wood repair near me

    Can I just say what a relief to uncover somebody who truly knows what they are discussing on the net. You certainly realize how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More people must read this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you aren't more popular because you definitely possess the gift.


    May 7, 2021 at 06:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Forklift Rental California

    The next time I read a blog, Hopefully it does not fail me as much as this particular one. After all, Yes, it was my choice to read through, however I genuinely believed you would have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy searching for attention.


    May 7, 2021 at 07:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Stella Artois Kegs

    Great site you've got here.. It’s hard to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I truly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 7, 2021 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Forklift Rental Near Me


    May 7, 2021 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Forklift Repair California

    I'd like to thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this site. I am hoping to check out the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has encouraged me to get my own, personal blog now 😉


    May 7, 2021 at 12:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Forklift Extensions California


    May 7, 2021 at 13:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. publix near me

    Everything is very open with a very clear explanation of the issues. It was really informative. Your site is very useful. Many thanks for sharing!


    May 7, 2021 at 15:19 | 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.