Black Floaters in Eyes: Why Do I Have Them?

    Black Floaters in Eyes: Why Do I Have Them?

    Experts say black floaters in eyes (or white floaters) commonly occur due to age-related changes. But what if you have them while you’re young? Should you be worried? And how do you get rid of them?

    Floaters in Eyes: What Are They?

    Before we discuss when and why they occur, let’s first explain what white or black floaters in eyes look like.

    Floaters are shapes that drift across your vision. They can be spots, squiggly lines, strings, or cobweb-like. When you try to look at them, they seem to dart away.

    Here are some other ways to describe floaters in eyes.

    • They could be black, gray, white, or transparent shapes.
    • Floaters occur when you try to move your eyes, but when you look at them directly, they “get away” from your field of vision.
    • They are most noticeable when you stare at a plain background, like a white wall or blue sky.

    Why Do Floaters Happen?

    Most people experience white or black floaters in eyes during their lifetime.

    It is most common in older people because aging often turns the originally “jelly-like” substance called vitreous humor to become more liquid. When that happens, the microscopic fibers in the vitreous may clump together and cast shadows in the retina. These shadows then become the floaters.

    People in their teens and 20s can also have them. If you’re nearsighted, you are more likely to have floaters at a younger age, too.

    Of course, there could be other reasons behind the white or black floaters in eyes. They might be due to:

    1. Retinal Tears Without Retinal Detachment

    Often, retinal tears are signified by a sudden increase in black floaters in eyes. Some cases of tears need surgery to prevent retinal detachment. Other cases do not require treatment.

    Important

    Retinal detachment is a medical emergency as it can cause permanent vision loss. Symptoms include:
    • Sudden increase in floaters
    • Flashes of light
    • Blurred vision
    • Having a curtain-like shadow in your field of vision
    • Gradual decrease in your side vision.

    2. Bleeding in Eyes

    White or black floaters in eyes may also occur when new (abnormal) blood vessels in the eyes bleed. The blood then becomes floaters. Bleeding may happen in conditions, like diabetic retinopathy.

    3. Inflammation in the Eyes

    Swelling in the eyes, such as posterior uveitis, may release debris in the vitreous that then manifest as floaters. Besides having black floaters in eyes, patients with posterior uveitis may also experience blurred vision, light sensitivity, difficulty seeing color, and difficulty seeing in the dark.

    4. Medications

    Medications injected into the vitreous may result in bubbles that appear to be floaters. Depending on the medication, the floaters may last for several weeks.

    When To Seek Medical Help

    White or black floaters tend to be very common, particularly in the elderly. When should you seek medical help for them?

    The general rule is to visit the doctor if there are changes in your vision. Hence, if you didn’t have floaters before but suddenly have them now, it’s time to set an appointment.

    Now if you’re used to seeing white or black floaters in eyes but notice that they have increased in number, get in touch with your doctor as soon as possible.

    Finally, seek medical help for the following symptoms:

    • Flashes of light, especially if they appear suddenly
    • Dark curtain or shadow blocking your vision
    • Eye pain
    • Blurred vision
    • Floaters after eye surgery

    The doctor might conduct tests and assessments to see what’s causing the white or black floaters in eyes.

    If they find another condition, they will treat it first. If the floaters are related to aging, they might not suggest any treatment, unless, of course, you are deeply bothered by them. In those instances, they might consider vitrectomy, a surgery that removes some or all of the vitreous humor.

    Learn more about Eye Health here.

    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated May 15
    Expertly reviewed by Dexter Macalintal, MD