Floaters: Cause for concern?

Two doctors and two opticians have told me I have floaters. Everybody seems to disregard them and one doctor said it was due to old age. Can you advise me on possibilities for the future?

Dr Fred Kavalier answers your health question:

Floaters are irritating little specks that drift across the field of vision. They are caused by a drying out of the jelly-like substance (the vitreous humour) that fills the eyeball. Floaters appear when tiny clumps or strands of vitreous cast a shadow on the retina at the back of the eye. The vitreous has a tendency to get thicker with age, and this is why floaters are more common in older people. If you are getting large numbers of floaters, or if you notice flashes of light in your visual field, you do need to get urgent attention from an eye specialist, as these are signs of retinal detachment. For very severe cases, there have been attempts to obliterate them with a laser, but this is not always successful. There is no cure for floaters, but people usually find that they become less troublesome, probably because they unconsciously learn to disregard them.

Please mail your questions for Dr Fred to health@independent.co.uk. He regrets that he is unable to respond personally to questions.