Floaters are a common side effect of cataract surgery, and they often disappear within a short period. However, they can persist and cause complications. Treatment can depend on the cause, but may include surgery and freeze treatment.

Side effects can occur following cataract surgery. A possible side effect of cataract surgery is floaters in the field of vision.

These may be harmless and go away on their own, but they can cause serious complications. A person should always speak with a healthcare professional if floaters appear.

This article explores what floaters are, their causes after cataract surgery, and treatment. It also discusses which postsurgical side effects are a cause for concern and answers some common questions.

A person wearing an eye shield on one eye after cataract surgery. People may experience floaters after cataract surgery.Share on Pinterest
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Floaters, or symptomatic vitreous opacities, are one of the most frequent complaints in the context of eye care.

The vitreous is the gel substance that fills the area of the eye between the lens and the retina, enabling vision. Tiny fibers of collagen within the vitreous can clump together and create shadows, causing floaters to appear.

Floaters can appear as:

  • flashes of light
  • lots of small, dark spots
  • squiggly lines
  • spider webs
  • stationary or moving bugs

Most of the time, floaters do not threaten the ability to see. However, it is best to get them checked out in case the floaters are a sign of an underlying condition.

Learn more about eye floaters here.

There are different complications of cataract surgery that can cause floaters to appear in a person’s vision.

Posterior vitreous detachment

Posterior vitreous detachment is the most common cause of floaters following cataract surgery. It happens when the outermost layer of the vitreous collapses on itself and separates from the retina.

With posterior vitreous detachment, tiny floaters usually appear about a day after cataract surgery and disappear within a few months.

Retinal tear or detachment

A retinal tear can result from vitreous detachment if densely adherent vitreous pulls too hard and creates a hole or tear in the retina. Vitreous fluid can seep into this defect and lift the retina off the wall of the eye.

Symptoms of retinal tear or detachment include the sudden appearance of numerous new floaters, which may come with flashes of light, and a dark shadow or blurry section of the side or central vision.

A retinal tear or detachment is likely to have a worse outlook than a posterior vitreous detachment as it often threatens vision.

If a person experiences symptoms of retinal tear or detachment, they should seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Learn more about retinal detachment here.

Preexisting floaters

Where cataracts cloud vision, it is possible that floaters are already present but the outcome of the surgery makes them more visible. A person may find that floaters appear because they are able to see more clearly.

Other causes

Other causes of floaters include:

  • vitreous syneresis, where the vitreous gel liquefies
  • trauma
  • injury
  • age

Treatment depends on which complication is causing floaters. Often, floaters may go away on their own.

A healthcare professional may suggest vitrectomy treatment if floaters are likely to worsen. A vitrectomy procedure involves removing and replacing the vitreous with clear, sterile fluid.

Treating a retinal tear or detachment depends on its severity. For a small retinal tear, a healthcare professional may use cryopexy, which is a type of freeze treatment, or laser surgery to seal the openings in the retina.

However, surgery may be necessary if a larger section of the retina is detached from the back of the eye or if there is persistent traction that prevents the retina from returning to its normal anatomic position.

The following side effects of cataract surgery require immediate medical attention:

Here are some answers to common questions about cataract surgery and floaters.

How long do eye floaters last after cataract surgery?

Floaters can last for months or years. However, after cataract surgery, they usually disappear within a few months.

Is it common to get floaters after cataract surgery?

It is common to get eye floaters after surgery. However, due to the potential for severe complications, people should seek medical attention if floaters appear after cataract surgery.

Floaters are tiny shapes that can appear as spots, shadows, or squiggly lines in vision. They occur when the small fibers of collagen clump together in the vitreous, which is the gel that makes up most of the eye.

Floaters can be a side effect of cataract surgery. They can be harmless. For example, they may appear due to the improvement in vision. However, they can be a sign of a more visually threatening complication, such as retinal tear or detachment.

If a person notices floaters after cataract surgery, they should speak with a healthcare professional as soon as possible.