What causes floaters in the eye?

A floater is caused by an opacity in the vitreous humour (the gel inside the eye). This is commonly the result of shrinkage of the vitreous, called a posterior vitreous detachment. If it happens suddenly, it may give rise to retinal breaks and detachment.

What are the symptoms of a retinal break?

The sudden appearance of new floaters or a large floater (often described as seeing a cobweb) may be associated with a retinal break. Often the patient also sees flashes of light, especially in the dark or with the eyes closed.

Retinal breaks are more common in people who are near-sighted (Myopic). It can also happen after a bump to the head, or severe coughing.

If this should happen to you, you should see your eye specialist as soon as possible. Early treatment with a LASER in the consultation room may prevent a much more serious retinal detachment.

How is a retinal break treated?

A retinal break is treated with a special type of LASER. Usually, a lens is placed in front of the eye, and a LASER beam is focussed on the retina. The retinal break is surrounded with the LASER, which forms an adhesion of the retina to prevent extension of the break and a retinal detachment.

Some retinal breaks may need to be treated with surgery.

Laser treatment heals the retinal break and prevents a detachment but does not make the floaters go away. The floaters usually decrease over time, but if they persist and are very bothersome, they can now be removed with a procedure called a Vitrectomy.


At Garden Route Eye Clinic,
we believe in integrity and compassionate care.