What are vitreous floaters?

Vitreous floaters (or eye floaters) are the black lines, dots or squiggles you sometimes see ‘float’ in and out of your vision. They’re completely normal and usually aren’t anything to worry about, but when they start getting in the way of your daily activities, surgical treatment can be an option.

What are the symptoms of vitreous floaters?

Most of us will experience eye floaters from time to time – you might recognise them as floating objects which follow your eye’s movement. People describe them as tadpoles, cobwebs, lace curtains, dots or squiggles moving around your field of vision.

Sometimes people can develop a few floaters suddenly between the age of 50-70. This is known as vitreous detachment and can occasionally be associated with a tear in the retina or sometimes retinal detachment. If you suddenly experience any of these symptoms, it’s important that you see your optician straight away, or contact A&E if your optician can’t see you quickly.

What causes vitreous floaters?

The back of your eye is filled with a jelly-like substance (a bit like egg white in consistency) known as the vitreous humour. As you get older, this substance becomes more liquid and mobile, which can cast shadows onto the light-sensitive part of the eye, the retina. These shadows are what you see floating across your vision every now and again.

How are they diagnosed?

If vitreous floaters are bothering you, you’ll usually see your optician first for an eye exam and a chat about your symptoms and the effect they’re having on your lifestyle. If your optician thinks you might benefit from treatment, they’ll refer you on to specialists like us for some more tests and to talk about potential treatment options.

How do you prevent vitreous floaters?

As vitreous floaters develop as part of the normal ageing process, it’s not possible to fully prevent them. If they become troublesome though, surgery is the only proven treatment for vitreous floaters.

How do I get referred?

Find out how

How are vitreous floaters treated?

Generally, your brain learns to ignore most of the floaters you see during the day, so most people get used to them and don’t need any treatment. Sometimes wearing dark glasses can help by reducing the contrast in bright conditions.

If they get worse, you should see your optician or GP so they can check for any other potential issues or refer you on for specialist treatment. Surgery for floater treatment is known as a vitrectomy and involves removing the vitreous humour (the gel-like substance at the back of your eye) and replacing it with saline.

What is vitrectomy surgery?

Vitreous floaters can be treated with a type of surgery known as vitrectomy. Vitrectomy is a procedure that treats eye conditions related to the retina, macula and vitreous humour.

Who might need vitrectomy surgery?

Vitrectomy surgery is recommended when your eye floaters are severe enough to get in the way of your day-to-day activities, like reading, work or driving.

What are the benefits of vitrectomy surgery?

The benefit of removing the vitreous humour is that it improves your quality of vision.

What happens during vitrectomy surgery?


Before your procedure, your consultant will fully assess your eye health. Some people will have cataract surgery at the same time (because it’s common for cataracts to develop after vitrectomy), in which case you’ll also have what’s called a biometry test to make sure your replacement lens is the right one for you. Your consultant will go through all the details of your procedure and can answer any more questions you might have.


Vitrectomy surgery is a relatively straightforward procedure that normally takes between 30-40 minutes. Most vitrectomy operations are performed under a local anaesthetic, either by eye drops or anaesthetic around the eye. So don’t worry, there won’t be any needles. You might just see a bright light and some movement, but you won’t be able to feel a thing. We know this can be a bit unnerving, but our theatre teams will be there to make sure you’re feeling completely comfortable the whole way through. Your consultant will talk you through everything they’re doing.


As the procedure is carried out with local anaesthetic, you’ll be able to go home the same day. You’ll need to use eye drops for about 3-4 weeks and come back and see us for a follow-up appointment 7-10 days after surgery, and another one about a month later.

You won’t be able to drive home afterwards so make sure you have someone to take you home. We also recommend having someone who you can call for about 24 hours after your procedure, in case you need a bit of help once you get home.

We’ll arrange all the necessary follow-up appointments with your consultant so they can make sure your recovery is going well or complete and your vision is the best it can be.

What is the recovery process after vitrectomy surgery?

After your procedure, your consultant will give you some eye drops to use for up to four weeks to help your eye heal. These drops will help to reduce inflammation. Your consultant will see you again for a follow-up appointment to make sure your vision has improved and your eye is healing well. You’ll usually have a review 7-10 days after your surgery and then again at about 4-6 weeks.

What are the possible complications?

Although the vast majority of patients won’t experience any complications, as with all surgery there are some risks of complications. Our team will discuss these with you in detail at your appointment and will make sure you’re happy to go ahead with treatment.

How much does vitrectomy surgery cost?

Private vitrectomy surgery starts from £5,995 per eye and combined vitrectomy and cataract surgery starts from £6,995 per eye. That includes all your pre- and post-operative appointments, as well as your medication.

If you have any questions about available treatments or you’d like to book an appointment with a full assessment of your condition, get in touch with us.


Where can I get private vitrectomy surgery near me?

You can find your nearest Newmedica clinic that provides vitrectomy surgery here.

How do I get referred?

Private patients can just get in touch with us directly. But if you’re using private medical insurance, you might need some more information to make your claim. You can find all the details on our private referral page

Patient stories

Find your nearest clinic

Bristol - Aztec West

Building 720, Waterside Drive, Aztec West, Almondsbury, Bristol, BS32 4UD

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St Andrew's House, 4400 Parkway, Solent Business Park, Whiteley, PO15 7FJ

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Grove Park, 1 Barton Close, Leicester, LE19 1SJ

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29-30 Market Place, North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, TS3 6HR

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Tottle Road, Riverside Business Park, Nottingham, NG2 1RT

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Avalon House, Marcham Road, Abingdon, OX14 1TZ

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Unit 2, Anchorage Ave., Shrewsbury Bus. Park, Shrewsbury, SY2 6FG

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Buckland House, Langley Business Park, 10 Waterside Drive, Langley, Slough, Berkshire, SL3 6EZ

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Unit 5, Berkeley Business Park, Wainwright Road, Worcester, WR4 9FA

NHS Private

Getting referred to Newmedica

If you think you have an eye condition, you should see your optician or GP for a detailed assessment. They’ll go through all the options available and tell you where you can have your treatment.

The referral process will differ slightly depending on whether you want to be an NHS or private patient. You’ll find all the information you need on our NHS and private patient pages.

Are you a health care professional?
Find out how to refer a patient.

NHS patients

Learn more about our NHS services
and how you can be referred.

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Private patients

Find details about our private
options and how to get started.

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Self-referring? Call 0800 4096 792