The lens is the part of your eye that focuses light, helping you to see clearly. Cataracts cause the lens of your eye to become cloudy, making it harder to see.

Surgery can be used to remove cataracts. During this surgery, a doctor will remove the clouded lens and replace it with a new artificial lens.

Like any type of procedure, cataract surgery has some potential side effects — one of these is floaters.

Continue reading to learn more about floaters, why cataract surgery may cause them, and how they’re treated.

Floaters are dark shapes that move, or float, across your field of vision. They can be described in many ways, such as:

  • spots
  • specks
  • bubbles
  • hairs
  • strings
  • squiggly lines
  • webs

Floaters move with your eyes, which makes looking at them directly a little difficult. However, when you stop moving your eyes, you’ll notice that floaters will continue to drift across your field of vision.

Most of the time, floaters happen due to natural age-related changes that happen in your eye. So, what exactly are they?

Your eye contains a gel-like substance called the vitreous. The vitreous helps to maintain the shape of your eye. It also contains fibers that connect it to the surface of your retina, the back part of your eye that senses light.

As you age, fibers in the vitreous can begin to contract (shrink) and pull away from the retina. They can also stick or clump together. When this happens, shadows are cast onto your retina. These shadows appear to you as floaters.

People who’ve had cataract surgery are at an increased risk of developing floaters. There are a few potential causes of floaters after cataract surgery. Let’s explore them below.

Preexisting floaters

It’s possible that the floaters existed before you had your cataract surgery. Because cataract surgery helps to clear your vision, you just may be seeing preexisting floaters more clearly after the procedure.

Posterior vitreous detachment (PVD)

PVD is the process where the vitreous shrinks and pulls away from the retina. This often happens naturally as we age and can cause floaters.

Cataract surgery involves manipulating the eye to insert a new lens. This can lead to shifting of the vitreous, causing PVD. Some other factors that may contribute to the development of PVD from cataract surgery include things like:

  • surgical technique
  • complications during the surgery
  • preexisting eye conditions, such as severe nearsightedness

Retinal tear or detachment

In rare cases, PVD from cataract surgery can lead to a tear in the retina. This can happen if vitreous fibers continue to tug on the retina during or after surgery.

The force applied to the retina can cause a tear to form. Retinal tears can progress to retinal detachment. Both conditions can lead to vision loss in the affected eye. Floaters can be a symptom of a retinal tear or detachment.

Other causes

Floaters can have other causes aside from what we’ve discussed above. Some other potential causes of floaters include:

Floaters can be a sign of a potentially serious side effect after cataract surgery, such as a retinal tear or detachment. Other symptoms of these conditions include:

  • sudden flashes of light
  • a gray curtain that blocks part of your field of vision
  • a shadow in your peripheral (side) vision

Other signs of a serious postsurgical side effect from cataract surgery are:

If you experience any of the symptoms described above, contact an eye doctor right away or go to the emergency room.

The treatment for floaters after cataract surgery depends on what’s causing them. An eye doctor will use a dilated eye exam to help determine what may be causing your floaters.

If floaters are happening naturally due to aging or PVD, they typically don’t require treatment.

However, if floaters are significantly impacting your quality of life or your ability to see, an eye doctor may suggest a procedure called a vitrectomy. This procedure removes the vitreous from your eye and replaces it with saline. If the vitrectomy is done to treat a retinal detachment, then the vitreous may be replaced with air or oil.

Small retinal tears may be repaired using a laser or a freezing probe. However, large tears or retinal detachments will need to be treated surgically. In this case, there are several different surgical procedures that may be used.

The outlook for floaters is generally good. In some people, floaters may go away over a period of weeks or months. In other cases, you may adapt to the presence of floaters and not notice them as much.

People with very severe floaters that impact their vision and daily life may be treated with vitrectomy. However, this procedure has its own risks and side effects, so be sure to discuss these with an eye doctor first.

Retinal tears or detachments can potentially lead to permanent vision loss. However, treatment with a procedure or surgery often works well if these conditions are detected and addressed early.

It’s possible that you may experience eye floaters following cataract surgery. There are a few potential causes for this.

Because cataract surgery helps to improve your field of vision, you may just be seeing floaters more clearly that existed prior to your surgery. In rare cases, floaters may be a sign of a more serious condition like a retinal tear or detachment.

Floaters can be a sign of a potentially serious surgical side effect. Contact the eye doctor promptly if you have floaters after cataract surgery. They can perform an eye exam to help determine the cause.