Protein in Eyes: What Are Eye Floaters Made Of?

eye floaters caused by protein and other debrisEye floaters are imperfections in the eye that look like dark shapes. They are made of protein and other discarded cell material. Although you may perceive them as being in front of the lens, they are in fact on the inside of the eye.

The vitreous humour is the gel-like ball inside the eye. Most children and young people do not see floaters, but over time, bits of debris are discarded by the vitreous humour or retina that causes protein (connective tissue) to be released. They float around inside the vitreous humour and cast shadows, obscuring vision in certain lighting conditions.

Half of people over the age of seventy report seeing eye floaters. The problem becomes more noticeable in older people as the vitreous becomes less solid over time. Trauma and poor nutrition are thought to be possible causes of eye floaters. It is possible some children are born with eye floaters but may not notice them until they are older. Floaters can happen after cataract surgery.

Nearsighted (myopic) individuals are more likely to have floaters. Chronic yeast infections and food allergies may be linked to the problem.

It is not often that floaters are a sign of serious problem, but they are a common reason that people visit an optometrist or ophthalmologist for an eye exam. Their symptoms can be associated with retinal tears, cystoid macular edema and asteroid hyalosis. Connections between drugs and this condition may exist but have yet to be clearly proven.

There is no clear “cure” for this condition. Each floater lasts a long time and can gradually disappear. It is not often that medical treatments are needed, but there are two main options for severe cases: vitrectomy (replacing the “gel” in the eye, a  radical and dangerous treatment), and laser vitreolysis (zapping the floaters with a special laser, not yet accepted by most doctors).

Learn more about causes, symptoms, and conventional and complementary treatment for eye floaters.