What Does It Mean If You Have Eye Floaters?

Imagine this — the warm summer sun is gently caressing your skin, and the sea breeze is kissing your cheeks. With your eyes closed, the sounds of the seagulls overhead and the crashing of the waves take over, and you're simply in paradise. But as you open your eyes and look out across the crystal blue sky, you notice strange dark or transparent shapes floating across the sky in front of you. Does that sound familiar? If so, you're not alone — experiencing eye floaters is much more common than you'd probably think. So what exactly are these annoying little buggers?

The normal anatomy of the eye consists of many different parts, including the vitreous (via National Eye Institute). The vitreous is a gel-like fluid that contains fibers that attach to the retina. Naturally, over time, some of those tiny fibers shrink and can detach from the retina, clumping together and casting shadows against the retina (via National Eye Institute). That leads to what is commonly referred to as floaters — dark or transparent dots, squiggly lines, cobwebs, and other shapes seemingly floating across your visual field. Floaters are commonly observed against bright backgrounds such as a clear blue sky or a crisp white piece of paper.

Risk factors and treatment of eye floaters

While it is common to develop floaters with age, some groups have an increased risk of developing floaters earlier in life. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, people who are nearsighted (difficulty seeing far away), have had cataract surgery, or those with diabetes tend to have a higher risk of developing floaters. Less commonly, floaters may be a symptom of more serious eye conditions, including (but not limited to) retinal detachment, eye injuries, and retinal tears.

While floaters tend to be annoying, most people learn to live with them. When the cause of floaters is natural aging, no medical treatment is usually necessary (via WebMD). However, if floaters begin to affect your vision significantly, an eye doctor may recommend a surgery known as a vitrectomy.

There are also instances in which you should seek medical attention immediately. These instances include a sudden increase in floaters, flashes of light, severe eye pain, and any visual loss. 

So rest assured the next time you are enjoying a beautiful cloudless sky, there are no strange worms wiggling across the sky — you're simply noticing your floaters.