Healthy Decisions for the Love of Health

Eye Floaters

“Normal” Floaters

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.

Vitreous Detachment

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

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.


Copyright © 2005 HealthSmart Nutrition. All rights reserved.
Revised: June 23, 2007

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