Do tiny black shapes dance on your white living room wall? Do you see little black circles, lines or squiggles floating in your peripheral vision? Floaters are an appropriate name for these small dark shapes that appear before our eyes, because they do, indeed, float through your field of vision.
These spots may look like squiggles, strands, or any of a hundred other shapes. Though they can be annoying (sometimes excruciatingly so), floaters are physiologically harmless to the eyes. But if you suddenly become aware of floaters, accompanied by bright flashes of light, it may signal a retinal or vitreous detachment, and a need for emergency care.
Despite their usual benign nature, floaters can be frustrating to a point of madness for both patients and doctors. Once a serious physical problem has been ruled out, the standard treatment has been to learn to live with them. Proper diet, and other methods discussed below, however, can help minimize, prevent, or eliminate floaters.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of floaters are typical and obvious; they include:
• Visual spots in the form of specks, strings, clusters, and any combinations 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.
WARNING: IF YOU SUDDENLY BECOME AWARE OF NEW SPOTS IN YOUR VISION, SEE YOUR EYE DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY TO RULE OUT SERIOUS PROBLEMS.
Common Causes & Risk Factors
- Age. Most vitreous eye floaters are age-related, and are due to the vitreous gel, which maintains the shape of the back of our eyes, gradually liquefying. This results in the release of proteins (connective tissue) into the vitreous gel. More than 50% of people over 70 see these proteins (floaters). Some parts of the vitreous may also clump to form floaters inside the eye. Shrinking of the vitreous that occurs with aging is known as vitreous syneresis.
- Diabetes. Floaters are common in people with diabetes because this condition causes a number of weakened capillaries in the eyes that can leak blood. The blood then clots, and can be deposited as floaters in the vitreous.
- Pre-birth. For some people, floaters may appear early in life, as a result of bits of cells that never fully dissolve during pre-birth development of the eyes.
- Eye Trauma. Trauma to the eye may also cause spots and floaters. Many floaters remain in the eye for a long time before they gradually disappear.
- Nearsightedness. Those who are nearsighted are at higher risk of developing eye floaters, along with people with food allergies and/or candidiasis (chronic yeast infections).
- Drugs. Some prescription drugs can cause floaters.
- Vitreous anomalies. Retinal tears, detachments, leaky blood vessels, and other vitreous anomalies can be experienced as floaters.
- Cataract Surgery. Patients who have had cataract surgery frequently report annoying floaters, which are considered complications.
- Stress. We believe that chronic stress may contribute to the generation of floaters (as well as any other health condition one may be prone to). So developing a daily routine of mediation, yoga, or relaxation is critical for overall well-being.
IMPORTANT NOTE: A sudden appearance of floaters might be an indication of a retinal or vitreous detachment. Nearsighted people, and those with diabetes, are more prone to both floaters and retinal tears.
From the perspective of Chinese Medicine, congestion in the kidney, liver, and colon can contribute to development of floaters. The nutrients and herbs we recommend are chosen for their ability to reduce congestion, helping to keep the vitreous free of these little specks and spots. In addition, these supplements help to strengthen the connective tissue of the retina, as well as the eye’s blood veins and arteries.
Currently there are no conventional treatments for floaters; patients are routinely told they must learn to live with them.
Vitrectomy surgery is available for more serious cases.
- Vitamin C – 2,000 mg per day. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is essential for overall eye health.
- Hyaluronic Acid – 100mg – 200mg per day. Hyaluronic acid (hyaluronan) is a large molecule found in the vitreous gel that is believed to contribute to the vitreous’ gel-like quality, and may also support related connective tissue.
- Liver Tonic (based on Classic Chinese Liver Formula Xiao Yao San): Rehmannia, Milk Thistle,dandelion
- Floater Homeopathic Pellets – 1-2 pellets 3 times per day (dissolve in mouth), preferably away from meals.
- Glucosamine Sulfate – 1,500 mg – 2,000 mg per day. Glucosamine sulfate helps maintain connective tissue integrity. Since some floaters are caused by disintegration of the lining of the vitreous sac, this nutrient may help slow down the natural aging effect on a weakening vitreous.
- Carnosine – Recommended for people suffering from cataracts, carnosine (LAC) shows promise in reducing vitreous
Juicing Recipe: (This is a suggested list of ingredients for this condition. Choose at least 4-6 items to combine. Do not use too many carrots.) Garlic, parsley, beets, carrots, celery, parsnip, apple, raspberries (preferably all organic).
Sunglasses: Invest in a good pair of ultra-violet filtering lenses. Ultraviolet light causes shrinkage, degeneration, liquification, and clumping of proteins in the eye; and those clumps are what become floaters. Wearing sunglasses is an especially important part of eye care for older people because vitreous detachments become more common with age.
Photo credit: mayoclinic.org
Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and New York State Licensed Acupuncturist is author of several books, including Natural Eye Care – Your Guide to Healthy Vision. Since 1980 Dr. Marc Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Holistic Eye Doctor, dedicated to helping people with such conditions ranging from myopia and dry eyes to potentially vision threatening diseases as macular degeneration and glaucoma. His combined multi-disciplinary approach using nutrition, eye exercises, lifestyle changes and Chinese Medicine provides him with a wide array of tools and approaches to tackle difficult eye problems. Dr. Grossman founded the Rye Learning Center in 1980, a multidisciplinary center for learning problems, in 1996 co-founded Integral Health Associates in New Paltz, New York, and in 1999 co-founded Natural Eye Care, Inc. For more information go to www.naturaleyecare.com or call 845-255-8222.