These are small gel masses inside the vitreous filling the interior of the eye. They are mostly seen when looking at a white surface or a flat surface such as the sky.

Figure 1. A demonstration of floaters due to vitreous degeneration (left, middle) and vitreous hemorrhage (right).

Floaters become more common over time. The most important risk factor is aging. As people get older, the vitreous layer starts to change. It moves off the retina to which it is attached, causing the detachment of vitreous. This is the most common cause of floaters. These complaints are more common and occur at an earlier age in patients with myopia and intraocular inflammation and patients undergoing  cataract surgery and intraocular laser treatment.

Detachment of posterior vitreous can be detected in biomicroscopic examination. Rarely, ruptures may occur in the retina during the detachment of the vitreous. These ruptures can be detected in examination.

Figure 2. Treatment options for floaters; YAG laser vitreolysis (left) and pars plana vitrectomy (right).

Deterioration in vitreous causes different types of stains in the field of vision. Biomicroscopic examination is the basis for diagnosis.

Most floaters which may decrease over time do not require treatment. Sometimes, they may be very intense, damaging the life-quality of the patient. In that case, these stains in the vitreous are cleaned through vitrectomy, thus the complaints of the patient are eliminated. An ophthalmologist should be consulted immediately for floaters emerging after photopsia. Such floaters may be an indicator of a rupture in the retina.