What are eye floaters and why are they incurable?

"Floaters" are the slightly out-of-focus silhouettes of condensations suspended in the "vitreous body" of the eye. They tend to "slosh" around as you move your direction of gaze, but usually quickly return to about the same relative position in your field of vision.

The vitreous gel has no purpose once you grow up, so while these condensations can be distracting, they are not dangerous or only rarely a sign of retinal tears or detachment. [If floaters occur suddenly, especially along with flashes of light, you should have them checked promptly, though.]

They are not incurable, but typically go away on their own if you can wait 3-6 months. Some ophthalmologists claim relative success with using a YAG laser on them, but the definitive treatment is a pars plans vitrectomy. The latter is an invasive procedure, though, so you need to be aware of the possible complications that can occur with vitrectomy -some of these could be far worse than the floaters themselves.

J.Trevor Woodhams, M.D. - Chief of Surgery, Woodhams Eye Clinic