Eye floaters are those obnoxious squiggles that drift along your field of vision, and they’re far from rare. In fact, eye floaters are more common than eyeglasses. They are most noticeable against bright, solid backgrounds like a cloudless sky. You may even recognize your eye floaters when they appear. But have you ever wondered what they actually are?

What causes eye floaters?

Most floaters are made up of collagen. This collagen comes from the vitreous, which is the jelly-like substance in the back of your eyes. As we age, changes in the proteins found in the vitreous can cast small shadows over your vision: these are floaters. Sometimes when the vitreous pulls away from the retina, you may see a small flash.

In some instances, eye floaters are caused by infections or trauma to the eye, but usually, they are a normal sign of aging. Whether or not you wear prescription eyeglasses has no effect on your likelihood of developing eye floaters.

Migraine visual disturbances

If you suffer from migraine headaches, then you may experience similar eye floaters periodically. Sometimes these signal the onset of a headache and sometimes they don’t. These visual symptoms are not the same as the vitreous detachment mentioned above. Migraine floaters are not permanent and typically disappear within an hour.

Relief from eye floaters

With time, you should stop noticing your floaters. Normally they will settle below your line of vision after a few weeks or months. Your brain may also grow accustomed to them and decide to notice them less. In the meantime, however, you can try to flick the floaters out of sight by moving your eyes back and forth (up and down works best). And on bright days, be sure to wear sunglasses. Darkened lenses make floaters less noticeable and can help your brain to forget them. Be sure to get sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV rays so you can protect your eyes from damage, as well. Affordable prescription sunglasses can be found at 39DollarGlasses.com.

When to worry

Almost everyone has an eye floater or two, especially once we get older. Usually, they are harmless, occasional nuisances. However, if you notice a large number of new floaters appear at once, it may be cause for concern. Floaters combined with flashing or “fireworks” in your vision could be a sign of a retinal detachment or a serious retinal tear. If you notice floaters appearing alongside any significant vision changes, such as a loss of peripheral vision, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.