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Floaters are opacities in the vitreous jelly of the eye. They cast a shadow on the retina and generally take the form of small dots, irregular rings and general cloudiness.
The key to diagnosing floaters is that they move independently of the eye, continuing to drift even when the eye is still.
The vitreous is the clear jelly-like substance which fills the hollow space behind the lens. As we age, the vitreous gel opacifies and eventually may shrink away from the retina. This is very common, occurring in about 75% of people over the age of 65.
Although floaters can occur when the gel is still attached, they are much more common when
separation of the vitreous gel from the retina occurs.
This is known as posterior vitreous detachment or PVD. It does not cause any permanent loss of vision itself, although very occasionally PVD results in tearing of the retina, with the risk of retinal detachment.
The appearance of floaters is also more common following cataract surgery.