Floaters in the Eye – Dangerous?

vitreous floaters

Subtle floating shapes

Floaters are a good name for the small dark shapes that float before our eyes. You might not notice them at all unless you are looking for them. They are common as we age. These spots may look like squiggles, strands, or any of a hundred other shapes. Though they can be annoying, floaters are physiologically harmless to the eyes.

But if you suddenly become aware of floaters, particularly accompanied by bright flashes of light, it may signal a vitreous tear or detachment, or a more serious condition such as a retinal tear or detachment, so you should contact your eye doctor right away.

How do floaters behave?

  • Visual spots appear in the form of specks, strings, clusters, and any combination of these.
  • The spots move as you move your eyes.
  • The spots tend to drift out of your line of vision when you are not moving your eyes.

Though floaters by themselves are not dangerous, they can be very annoying and to some overwhelming. The most common cause of eye floaters is that as one ages, the vitreous which keeps the shape of the back of the eye starts to liquify or clump, causing stress on the connective tissue which attaches the vitreous sac to the retina. This pulling over time can release particles of the connective tissue into the vitreous gel, which basically remain there “floating” around.

When you see the floaters, you in fact are actually seeing the reflection of the floaters being cast onto the retina, which is why they are more noticeable in bright light. They are actually located in the back of the eye and 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.

Causes of floaters

Floaters have many innocuous causes but the sudden appearance of floaters can indicate an emergency eye problem.

  • 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.

How the eye cleanses itself

Though there is no blood flow in the vitreous, the good news is that the body does move fluids in and out very slowly. These fluids consist of mostly water, but also contain hyaluronic acid (which we believe helps support the integrity of the vitreous and related connective tissue), vitamin C, and phagocytes (which are part of the immune system).  We believe that phagocytes are also there to help break down debris in the vitreous, such as eye floaters.

As this is a very slow process, the natural way to try to speed it up (at least 3-6 months) is by taking one or more of the following:

  1. Revision Formula is a wild-crafted tincture taken by mouth that combines a combination of herbs based on a classic Chinese Liver tonic used to innervate the “Liver energy.”
  2. Floater Homeopathic Pellets help the body focus on the eye floaters to try to speed up the slow process the breaking down eye floaters.
  3. In addition several packages provide targeted nutrients for the retina and vitreous to reduce the risk of both floaters and vitreous tears.

Why these recommendations?

  • Revision formula supports the liver meridian. As mentioned in a prior blog, the Liver meridian in Chinese medicine “Opens to the Eyes” and promotes the free flow of energy and circulation throughout the eyes and body for overall health.
  • Advanced Eye & Vision Formula is our flagship product to support retinal health and general vision integrity.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Also …

  • Wear sunglasses when outdoors. Ultraviolet light from the sun encourages changes to the vitreous that leads to floaters.
  • Take good care of your overall health. Staying active and eating a healthy diet are your first lines of defense against floaters.
  • Blows to the head can have long-lasting effects. Wear a helmet when playing impact sports and cycling, and avoid head injuries whenever possible.
  • 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.
  • Also, you can read our 84-page mini-book on floaters, Natural Eye Care Series: Floaters & Detachments.

For any questions, please feel free to contact us at info@naturaleyecare.com or by phone at 845-475-4158