Eye floaters are visual symptoms that feel like specks or cobwebs floating around in the field of vision. Age-related macular degeneration does not affect the part of the eye that would cause floaters.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a condition affecting the retina. It occurs when the center of the retina — known as the macula — wears down over time. This affects a person’s vision when they are looking straight ahead.

Floaters are a series of shapes and patterns that move across the field of vision in response to different causes, such as intense light or eye trauma. They occur due to typical changes in the eye and develop in almost everyone at some point in their lives.

Read on to learn more about eye floaters and AMD. This article also discusses what causes eye floaters, their symptoms, treatment options, and more.

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AMD does not cause floaters.

AMD develops in the tissue underneath the center of the retina, which is the part of the eye that senses light. Floaters occur due to changes in the jelly-like part of the eye, known as the vitreous.

Certain retinal changes, such as an injury that detaches the retina, can lead to floaters. However, AMD does not cause these physical changes.

Learn about the signs of macular degeneration.

Eye floaters are most often a typical response to aging. Nearly all people will experience them.

Over time, small strands of the vitreous clump together and cast shadows on the retina. People who see those shadows might perceive them in the form of floaters. Most of the time, they pass without needing medical attention.

However, floaters can also occur due to the following:

Floaters might also occur due to treatment for other eye conditions, such as cataract surgery. An underlying health condition that damages the eye, such as diabetes, may also cause eye floaters.

Floaters might look like:

  • spots
  • specks
  • cobweb shapes
  • squiggles
  • lines

They move with a person’s eyes, so trying to look at floaters directly will cause them to appear to move away.

Keeping the vision still cause the floaters to appear to drift, or float, across the vision. They may be more noticeable when looking at something with a white back or bright lighting.

An eye doctor can check for floaters as part of a routine eye examination.

They will often start by administering eye drops that cause the pupil to widen. This helps them assess the eye in a relaxed state. They will then check for floaters and other eye problems that can develop over time.

If floaters come and go or do not interfere with daily function, a person will not likely need treatment. However, depending on the underlying cause, treatment may be necessary.

To address severe causes, or when a person’s floaters significantly disrupt everyday life, a doctor might recommend a vitrectomy. However, it is usually a last resort, and doctors rarely recommend them.

The procedure might involve removing cloudy vitreous, scar tissue, or foreign matter from the eye, as well as repairing the retina.

A person’s doctor can provide more information about what treatments they recommend according to the person’s circumstances.

Depending on the cause, floaters may resolve on their own. However, people need to check in with an eye specialist, or ophthalmologist, if floaters do not pass or get worse.

People need to visit the emergency room if they notice the following:

  • a large amount of floaters that suddenly appear
  • flashes of light
  • dark shadows at either side of the vision or in the center

These might point to a retinal detachment, which doctors consider a medical emergency.

Here are some frequently asked questions about floaters and macular degeneration.

When should a person worry about floaters in your eyes?

People need to speak with an eye specialist about floaters if they stay in the field of vision or obstruct daily life. If many floaters suddenly appear or appear alongside flashes of light, it might indicate a detached retina. This warrants a visit to the emergency room.

Are eye floaters degenerative?

Eye floaters are a visual symptom of many possible health problems, and some causes may be degenerative. However, they can also occur due to an injury or infection. These may resolve once the infection clears or the injury heals. Eye floaters can also naturally occur over time.

What are the warning signs of macular degeneration?

Warning signs of early AMD can include small yellow dots known as drusen showing in a routine eye exam, several large drusen showing in an exam, or large patches of atypical color in the visual field.

What are the flashes of macular degeneration?

A type of AMD called wet AMD develops rapidly and causes new blood vessels to grow in the macula. People with wet AMD sometimes report seeing flashing lights. However, flashes are more likely to be a sign of retinal detachment, especially alongside floaters.

Floaters are squiggles, dots, and cobweb-shaped shadows in the visual field. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) does not cause floaters.

Many floaters are a natural effect of aging, but they might also occur due to infection, injury, or inflammation in the vitreous of the eye. AMD, on the other hand, develops in the macula, just underneath the retina.

Retinal injury or detachment, which is a medical emergency, can also cause floaters.

Doctors may treat persistent or disruptive floaters with a vitrectomy, but this is rare. The treatment often depends on the underlying cause of the floaters.

If a person has concerns about floaters, it is best to contact a doctor for advice. They need to seek immediate medical treatment if they experience flashes of light, a large number of floaters that suddenly appear, or dark shadows in their vision.