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Eye floaters: understanding the causes

Eye floaters: understanding the causes

People ignore floaters until they become prominent. However, timely management can help to reduce them in the long run
Floaters in the eye
Eye floaters | Representational Image – Shutterstock

Henry Moirang Sinha (48), founder of an advertising agency in Bengaluru, had been experiencing sleepless nights due to long working hours. “My sleep hours were reduced to 4 to 5 hours a day,” says Sinha. 

“One day suddenly I noticed floaters in one of my eyes,” he adds. Sinha had been noticing something floating in his eyes for almost a year but ignored it. His ophthalmologist informed that it could be due to fluid build-up behind his retina.  

The other causes include lack of sleep, smoking, and sustained stress. In addition, he lost weight and had a weakened immune system. 

The doctor asked Sinha to change his lifestyle and quit smoking to manage stress. He then began self-regulating his work, sleep, and health with the help of yoga and meditation. Now, after improving his sleep cycle the floaters have gradually reduced. 

Floaters and the vision 

The black or grey specks that appear in the eyes when the individuals move their eyeballs are referred to as floaters. Floaters may become apparent when looking at something bright. As one gets older, the number of eye floaters might increase. Even young people can develop it due to various eye conditions. 

Our eye contains a gel-like substance called vitreous inside a membrane. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the membrane undergoes a process of thickening or shrinking as one grows older. Eventually, it leads to the detachment of the membrane from the retina. Due to this, some people may notice floaters. 

Underlying reasons 

Dr Ruchika Kedia Arora, ophthalmologist from Arora clinic, Thane West, Maharashtra, says that floaters are commonly seen in people with myopia or short-sightedness especially with more negative power. 

“Age, eye infections, inflammation of the uvea (middle layer of the eyes), bleeding in the eyes, injury to the eye and cataracts surgery can also cause floaters,” says Dr Avantika Verma, consultant ophthalmologist from Vasan eye care, Bengaluru. 

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, people with diabetic retinopathy do not have pain and visual disturbance initially. However, it leads to blurry vision with floaters and flashes of light eventually. 

Read more about diabetic retinopathy here.

Temporary state 

Most floaters fade away within one to six months, as one learns to adjust to them. Many individuals ignore them until they become prominent. However, floaters tend to remain for a longer period when there is damage to the vitreous membrane, says Dr Verma. 

The floaters may appear in different shapes like dots, lines, black shadows, translucent threads, or rings. “It is harmless in most of the people. However, it is a non-reversible condition and keeps coming and going,” says Dr Arora. 

Examination of floaters 

“Individuals who begin noticing eye floaters should consult an ophthalmologist for an eye examination. It can be the first sign of a retinal tear or other eye conditions,” says Dr Verma. During the examination, the pupils are dilated using eye drops. The doctor assesses the internal structures of the eye including nerve and blood vessels.  

Lifestyle management 

Experts say that floaters due to ageing do not require management. However, other causes are managed with the following measures: 

  • Incorporating leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and fatty fish in the diet provides essential nutrients and improves eye health. 
  • Reducing eye strain and adequate sleep reduces the appearance of floaters. 
  • Wearing sunglasses prevents exposure to bright lights and sunlight. 
  • Managing underlying conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and myopia can help control floaters. 
  • A 2021 study published in the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology journal shows that nutrient supplements rich in vitamin C, zinc, citrus fruit extracts, antioxidants, and micronutrients aid in the management of vitreous floaters. 

Read more about foods for optimal eye health here

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