At some point in our lives, many of us will see what looks like small specks of dust or wispy threads drifting across our vision. We will notice, however, that blinking does not get rid of the specks or threads. And when we move our eyes, the specks or threads move too.

These are called floaters. While annoying, ordinary eye floaters and spots are very common and usually aren’t cause for alarm.

What are floaters and what cause people to get floaters?

Floaters and spots typically appear when tiny pieces of the eye’s gel-like vitreous break loose within the inner back portion of the eye.

The vitreous slowly shrinks with age, causing it to become a bit stringy. The strands cast shadows on the retina, causing floaters. About one-quarter of people have some vitreous shrinkage with floaters by their 60s; that rises to about two-thirds of 80-year-olds.

Floaters also appear more often in people who are nearsighted, those who have had cataract surgery or a previous eye injury, and those with diabetes. Although most people tolerate floaters just fine, others feel that floaters affect their vision and disrupt their ability to read.

You’ll notice that these spots and eye floaters are particularly noticeable if you gaze at a clear or overcast sky or a computer screen with a white or light-colored background.

What is also interesting, you’ll also see that these specks never seem to stay still when you try to focus on them.