Harvard Women's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Do I need to worry about floaters?

Q. At 65, I have begun to notice tiny threadlike shapes in my vision, which my doctor calls "floaters." Should I be concerned?

A. "Floaters" is a catchall term for the dots, threads, or cobwebs that many of us notice drifting across our line of vision as we get older. We may also notice flashes of light. Floaters move as your eye moves and dart away when you try to look at them.

Floaters are tiny clusters of cells or flecks of protein that are lodged in the vitreous, the fluid that fills the eyeball. What we actually see as a floater is the shadow these clumps cast on the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye that is responsible for vision. Most floaters and flashes are harmless and occur as a result of normal aging and shrinking of the vitreous.

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