What causes seeing spots?

Seeing spots or floaters is due to the clumping of proteins in the vitreous, a gel-like substance in the back portion of the eye. This process occurs most commonly as a result of aging, which causes shrinking of the vitreous and aggregation of its proteins. The shrinkage may lead to posterior vitreous detachment, which increases the risk of retinal detachment. However, clumps of protein in the vitreous may also be congenital or caused by eye injuries.

Common causes of seeing spots or floaters

Seeing spots or floaters may be caused by:

  • Diabetes (chronic disease that affects your body’s ability to use sugar for energy)
  • Normal aging
  • Posterior vitreous detachment

Serious causes of seeing spots or floaters

In some cases, seeing spots or floaters may be a symptom of a serious condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include retinal detachment (detachment of the light-sensing layer inside your eye from the blood vessels that provide it oxygen and nutrients).

Questions for diagnosing the cause of seeing spots or floaters

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your seeing spots or floaters including:

  • How long have you been seeing spots or floaters?
  • Have you noticed any sudden increases in the amount of spots or floaters?
  • Are you observing flashes of light?
  • Are you seeing spots in both eyes or just one eye?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • Do you have other symptoms, particularly other symptoms affecting your eyes or vision?

What are the potential complications of seeing spots?

Seeing spots or floaters is usually a symptom of harmless shrinkage and protein clumping occurring in the vitreous, the gel-like substance in the back of the eye. This process occurs as part of normal aging. However, in some cases, seeing spots, and especially a sudden increase in spots, may be a symptom of more serious conditions such as retinal detachment or eye complications of diabetes. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including loss of vision and blindness.


  1. Eye floaters. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002085.htm.
  2. Floaters and flashes. University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center. http://www.kellogg.umich.edu/patientcare/conditions/floaters.html.

What is seeing spots?

Seeing spots, which are often called floaters, means that you are seeing objects that look like small specks, circles or strands floating in your visual field. These spots or floaters are located within the eye itself and generally move with your eyes, although they also drift on their own. The spots are most noticeable when you are looking at a plain background. In rare cases, eye complication... Read more about seeing spotsintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with seeing spots?

Seeing spots most often occurs as a solitary symptom, though it occasionally accompanies other symptoms.

Other symptoms that may occur along with seeing spots

Seeing spots may accompany other symptoms including:

  • Headache
  • Seeing flashes of light

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

In some cases, s... Read more about seeing spotssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 8, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Eyes and Vision

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