The typical floater is called muscae voluntantis,
and is thought of by most eye doctors as physiological. In other words, it is
not considered a pathology or disease. It is caused by the shadow of a
“ghost” blood vessel, the hyaline artery, which carries blood to feed the
growing fetal lens of the eye before birth. The empty vascular structure remains
in the vitreous throughout life, but can become optically more dense, casting an
annoying shadow on the retina that moves with eye movement. This shadow can
become more dense with factors like food allergies, and congestion in the colon
and liver areas. Avoidance of allergenic and congestive foods, particularly
dairy products, can improve symptoms sometimes within a week. In some cases, as
with other symptoms related to food sensitivities, symptoms may get initially
worse for up to 3 days, as the body begins to detoxify and eliminate built up
deposits in the tissues.
Another common type of floater is caused by
detatchment of the vitreous from its connective tissue link to the optic nerve
head. As the vitreous body shrinks with aging and degenerative changes, it can
begin to pull on this attatchment, causing flashes of light to be seen in one
out of three cases, especially when moving the eyes rapidly. The tissue which
attatches the vitreous to the optic nerve contains pigment in the shape of a
ring, so when this detatches and floats in front of the retina, it casts an
intense and disturbing shadow. When the actual detatchment takes place, it can
even pull on blood vessels, causing bleeding into the vitreous in 13 to 19% of
cases. This causes additional floaters which can appear red in color, like a
flock of birds, or just a blurry reddish smoke, but which can eventually be
reabsorbed by the body. There is even some risk that a vitreous detatchment
could trigger a more serious retinal detatchment, that can cause blindness. This
is typically experienced as a curtain or shadow off to the side in one eye.
Prompt diagnosis and treatment by an eye doctor is critical in such a case.
Since the combination of bleeding and the pigment ring on the detached vitreous
presents the onset of multiple floaters at the same time, it is important to
have a professional eye examination when more than one floater is noticed. 24%
of patients with multiple floaters do in fact have a sight-threatening
condition. A single floater is usually not a concern in terms of potential loss
of vision. 25% of all people do experience vitreous detatchment, fortunately
most occuring without any complications such as bleeding or retinal detatchment.
The top risk factor for vitreous detatchment is diabetes. People who are myopic
(nearsighted) tend to experience vitreous detachment 10 years sooner than others
and 64% of all eyes with floaters are myopic.
Risk factors for floaters include myopia
(nearsightedness), diabetes, migraine, contact sports, excess UV exposure and
aging. The highest rate of complaints of floaters is among people over age 60.
Vitreous detachments increase in prevalence from less than 10% in those under
age 60, to 27% for those in their 60’s, and 63% in those over 70.
Women are at nearly twice the risk as men for
syneresis (shrinkage of the vitreous connective tissue) and vitreous floaters
visible to an eye doctor via an ophthalmoscope.
Nearly half of all eyes eventually lose 50% or
more loss of vitreous integrity to syneresis (liquefaction). When lacunae
(lakes) of liquid are adjacent to the retina instead of the normal jelly-like
vitreous humour, there is increased risk of vitreous traction (pulling on the
optic nerve head, blood vessels or the macula), retinal tearing and detachment,
as well as infiltration of cellular debris into the vitreous causing floaters.
Vitreous syneresis increases the risk of vitreous detachment, cellophane
maculopathy and other related macular diseases.
Candidiasis is also a common finding in people
with floaters. Beneficial flora supplements as well as anti-fungal remedies such
as the herbs Pau D’Arco and Garlic, the colloidal trace mineral Silver and
fatty acids like Caprylic acid may be beneficial.
© 2005 HealthSmart Nutrition. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 23, 2007