Floaters after cataract surgery are not uncommon and in most of the cases, they don’t pose any threat to your eye or vision. In a small fraction of patients, they may be a sign of a complication of the cataract surgery itself or a pre-existing eye condition which becomes recognizable after surgery.
Floaters are usually small moving specks in the vitreous which is a gel-like structure inside the eye. What you actually see is the shadow of the opacity cast on the retina.
They are visible especially in bright light and against bright background such as a white wall or the sky. They move in the direction of the movement of the eye. They may be irregularly shaped – dots, cobwebs, threads, etc. Because of their movement, they are also known as muscae volitantes (flying flies).
Eye floaters may vary in size also – some are tiny dots while some are quite large. They may be well-defined if they are close to the retina and more hazy in outline if they are away from the retina (behind the lens).
Most of the eye floaters after cataract surgery are harmless
It is important to know that floaters in the eyes are normally found in approximately one-third of population. They are even found in children. As we grow, the number of eye floaters increases gradually. Therefore, eye floaters can be considered as a sign of aging vitreous.
Floaters after cataract surgery may be noticed as the patient was not able to see them before surgery because of cloudy or no vision. As soon as the patient’s vision becomes clear after cataract surgery, he or she starts seeing the floaters as well. This phenomenon is frequently encountered in ophthalmology practice.
Some eye floaters after cataract surgery may be pathological
Some eye floaters noticed after cataract surgery are not normal. There are two possibilities to explain them:
- That they pre-existed and were caused by some eye disease. Some of the conditions which can cause eye floaters are posterior vitreous detachment, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment, uveitis, retinitis, choroiditis and some disorders of retinal vessels.
- That they were caused by the cataract surgery itself. Bleeding inside the eye, post-operative inflammation or infection can cause appearance of eye floaters after cataract surgery or any intraocular surgery for that matter.
For the reasons mentioned above, it is important for the patient to immediately go back to the ophthalmologist to have an eye exam to find out the cause and source of the eye floaters.
The good news is that in most of such scenarios, the eye exam will not reveal anything serious.
How long do floaters in the eye last?
Depending on the cause of the eye floaters, they may gradually disappear in a few weeks or months or they may stay for the rest of your life.
Can eye floaters make you blind?
Eye floaters usually are small in size and do not cause blindness. However, massive bleeding inside the eye, for example as a result of diabetic retinopathy, may cause cloudy vision or blindness.
So if you notice eye floaters after cataract surgery, don’t be worried. Most likely they are not a sign of any disease or complication of cataract surgery. Presence of floaters in the other eye (if that eye does not have cataract) may guide your whether or not the floaters in the operated eye are normal.
As a general rule, you should be alarmed when you notice some other symptoms as well in the first few days after cataract surgery. If you notice any pain, redness of the eye or reduction in vision (as compared to the vision immediately after the surgery), you must visit your eye doctor and get your eye examined to clear the doubts.