Have you ever noticed specks or clouds in your field of vision? They are most likely eye floaters. Floaters can look like cobwebs, blobs, dots, or little insects that float around. Eye floaters can be semi-transparent or darker. If you have them, they are more noticeable in certain lighting conditions, such as bright sunlight. You might not notice them at all unless you are looking for them.
While floaters might seem to be on the lens, they are actually in the back of the eye. They are tiny clumps of protein in the vitreous fluid. The vitreous fluid is a gelatinous substance located between the iris and retina. This fluid keeps the shape of the back of the eye.
An eye doctor can see floaters by shining a light into the eye during an exam. Dilating drops are used to keep the iris open.
Floaters have many possible causes. The sudden appearance of floaters can indicate an emergency eye problem. Most of the time, they have an innocuous cause and may not require treatment. If they interfere with vision or disturb the patient, treatment may be necessary.
Note: Certain vitreous anomalies may be experienced as floaters, but they can be quite serious. Apparent “floaters” may indicate retinal detachments, retinal tears, or broken blood vessels. Another symptom that may appear is “flashes” – sudden flashes of light, similar to lightning. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your eye doctor right away.
Causes of Floaters
- Aging is the most common cause. Starting at around age 50, the vitreous starts to liquefy and/or clump. This pulls on the retina, releasing connective tissue into the vitreous gel. More than half of people over age 70 see floaters.
- A “Weiss Ring” looks like a large floater in the shape of a ring, letter J, or letter C. It indicates that the vitreous is separating from the retina. This floater is usually harmless, but may result in a retinal tear. Many seniors develop a Weiss ring due to the aging process.
- A common cause of floaters is head trauma and eye trauma. Car accidents, blows to the head, and injuries to the eyes can cause debris to break free in the vitreous.
- A pregnant woman experiences hormonal changes that makes her prone to floaters.
- A baby can be born with them. These are the remnants of blood vessels in the eyes that did not dissolve properly during gestation.
- A person with diabetes is prone to weak capillaries in the eyes. If they leak blood, the clots can appear as floaters in the vitreous fluid.
- Having nearsightedness increases the likelihood of getting floaters. Myopia makes the eye pull constantly on the retina.
- According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, they may be seen as a result of kidney and spleen imbalances, liver meridian imbalances, and/or colon congestion.
- A viral infection, such as ocular herpes or cytomegalovirus, can cause vitritis. A side-effect is floaters.
- When the uvea at the back of the eye becomes inflamed, floaters may result. Uveitis has many causes.
- After cataract surgery, the patient may experience complications resulting in floaters.
- Certain prescription drugs list floaters as a side-effect.
- Floaters might indicate vitreous detachment, retinal detachments, retinal tears, or broken blood vessels. These need to be checked by an eye doctor.
- Exposure to toxins
- Leaky gut syndrome or other inflammatory gastro-intestinal issues.
The prognosis for floaters is generally “learn to live with it.” However, new or many floaters should get examined by an eye doctor just to rule out such issues as retinal tears or detachments.
Floaters that appear suddenly may indicate a retinal tear, retinal detachment, vitreous detachment, or broken blood vessel. They may be accompanied by flashes of light. Some of these conditions are medical emergencies, particularly if associated with any change or loss of vision. Seek immediate medical attention and follow up with the doctor as needed. The eye doctor may be able to treat the underlying condition and restore vision health. For example, a detached retina might need a vitrectomy, scleral buckle, laser surgery, and/or pneumatic retinopexy. Surgery may be needed if it is a complete retinal detachment.
If the cause of floaters is not an urgent malfunction, sometimes they resolve on their own.
However, most of the time, floaters are here to stay. They are considered a minor nuisance unless the patient is bothered by them. Sometimes the brain has difficulty filtering out visual noise. Sometimes there are so many, vision is significantly obscured. The patient may develop depressive symptoms related to obscured vision and frustration. In these cases, the doctor may consider treatment.
Standard Treatments for Floaters
When floaters impact the quality of life, a few standard treatments have proven useful.
Vitrectomy involves removing the vitreous gel. The surgeon replaces the gel with silicon oil or gas. However, this procedure is considered a last resort. Vitrectomy has a high risk of complications including retinal tears and retinal detachment. Replacing the vitreous fluid typically results in a cataract. Therefore, try complementary approaches before getting a vitrectomy unless it is an emergency.
Laser treatment for floaters depends on the location and type of the debris. This treatment carries few risks. However, laser treatment for floaters is generally not very effective. Laser is not currently a standard treatment for floaters.
Complementary Approaches to Floaters Support and Prevention
Eye health is a reflection of the entire body’s health. Reducing stress, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and supplementing support wellness. Phagocytes are found in the vitreous, placed there by the body. Phagocytes are part of the immune system. They help break down debris in the vitreous. This is one way to for the body to try to resolve the eye floaters, but it takes time. There is no circulation in the vitreous, so it is based on the slow movement of fluids that go in and out.
Natural ways to try to accelerate the process are found in Traditional Chinese Medicine (innervating the Liver energy – see ReVision Formula below). Homeopathic medicine can also be helpful (see below: Floater Homeopathic Pellets).
Keeping the vitreous and retina healthy reduces the chances of getting new floaters. This is especially true for seniors.
Specific Complementary Approaches
- The body produces hyaluronic acid daily to lubricate joints and help heal tissues. The vitreous contains significant amounts of hyaluronic acid. Seniors produce less and less hyaluronan as they age.
- Seniors often take glucosamine to lubricate and protect the joints. Glucosamine might also reduce how quickly the lining of the vitreous sac breaks down.
- Wear sunglasses when outdoors. Ultraviolet light from the sun encourages changes to the vitreous that leads to floaters.
- Vitamin C is useful for eliminating waste and neutralizing oxidization. Citric acid improves lymph and blood circulation. Take no more than 1,500 mg per day if you have floaters. Too much vitamin C can reduce absorption of other nutrients and actually increase floaters.
- Take a balance of calcium to prosperous. An imbalance can contribute to floaters. Also make sure you are getting enough chromium.
- Homeopathy: Floater Homeopathic Pellets contain very tiny amounts of physostigma, phosphorus, silica, and other substances. According to the principles of homeopathy, these ingredients mitigate floaters temporarily.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine: A liver tonic containing milk thistle and dandelion is the classic remedy. The ReVision formula contains these herbs plus Rambling Powder, ginger, eyebright, bilberry, gingko and more. These wild-crafted herbal drops are taken by mouth. They support circulation, encourage the movement of energy, and mitigates stress effects. ReVision formula is part of the Vitreous Support Package.
- Vitreous Support Package: At Natural Eye Care, we have developed a package to support the gelatinous vitreous where floaters appear. The package is a combination of vitamins, minerals, Hyaluronic acid, and herbs. It comes in a 1-month or 3-month supply. The package includes Dr. Grossman’s flagship supplement, Advanced Eye & Vision Support Formula. Hyaluronic acid helps compensate for lower production of this crucial molecule in seniors. We selected a vitamin C complex from 8 sources with bioflavonoids. Plus, our ReVision formula harnesses Traditional Chinese Medicine to address floaters.
Taking good care of your overall health, staying active and eating a healthy diet are your first lines of defense against floaters. Unlike in action movies, blows to the head can have long-lasting effects. Wear a helmet when playing impact sports and cycling, and avoid head injuries whenever possible. Drive at or below the speed limit to reduce the impact of any crashes.
Weigh the benefits and risks of eye surgery. Discuss with your doctor the likelihood that you will develop floaters from an eye surgery. Ask how serious they are likely to be. Chances are that they would be a minor nuisance versus improved vision from the surgery.
As you age, taking supplements may compensate for vitreous shrinkage and reduced production of hyaluronic acid.