Harvard Men's Health Watch

On call: Floaters

Q. I'm 55 years old, and I only need glasses for reading. Recently though, I've seen tiny black specs that move around in random directions. My eyes are not red, watery, or painful, but I'm worried that I may have the start of an eye disease.

A. The short answer is that your symptoms suggest a common and medically unimportant problem called floaters. But since your eyesight could suffer if you neglect flashes or the sudden appearance of large or numerous floaters, a long answer may be helpful.

The large chamber at the back of your eye is filled with a protein-rich, jelly-like material called the vitreous. In youth, the vitreous is completely clear and transparent, allowing light to pass freely to the back of the eyeball, where the retina collects photic energy and turns it into nerve impulses that the brain reconstructs into images.

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