Every once in a while we all see a spot or floater flash by our field of vision. It might be a speck of dust or a little eye liquid (vitreous) that’s making its way across the lens. Seeing more frequent spots and floaters means it is time to schedule an appointment with your optometrist or ophthalmologist.
What The Heck Are Those Floaters And Spots?
“Floaters” and “spots” are generalized words that describe any squiggles, dots, threads, or even little cobwebs that float across the visual field. You may rub your eyes (but don’t rub too much or too hard!) and they go away, or you may notice floaters are present more and more often.
Floaters and spots are usually semi-transparent, cloudy, grey, or black. They actually are moving across your vision field, so if you try to follow them or focus on them they’ll keep on moving along. Sometimes floaters appear more like flashes or showers, like sparklers, small fireworks, or a shooting star. Again, it is perfectly normal to see the occasional floater or spot.
Sometimes, it is simply cloudy, or semi-transparent vitreous particles (eye fluid) moving around in your eye. Then there is a list of things that also cause floaters such as having something trapped on the surface of your eye or when there is a bit of protein or other tissue matter that got stuck in your eye when you formed in utero.
Other causes for seeing more frequent floaters or spots in your field of vision include:
- Eye infections
- An inflamed eye (uveitis)
- Bleeding in the eye
- Medication side effect
- Torn retina
- Eye injury
- Diabetes and diabetic retinopathy
- Prior eye surgery
- Retinal detachment (when the retina detaches from the back of the eye)
- Vitreous detachment (the vitreous detaches and tears a hole in the retina)
As you can imagine, it’s important to have your floaters and spots evaluated by an optometrist or ophthalmologist to determine the exact cause.
Many of them involve underlying health conditions requiring treatment and management, and some of them involve eye conditions that need to be treated to prevent more serious or permanent vision loss.
Treatment For Spots And Floaters In Vision
The first and most important step is to schedule an appointment with your vision specialist to discuss your experience. An eye exam and a conversation about your current medication/supplement list and health history are the places to start.
The doctor will use special eye drops to dilate your pupil and then look for the floaters as well as any other eye-specific issues that may be causing them. From there, your treatment will fall into one of four categories.
Sometimes floaters are just a normal part of eye function and they go away on their own. There’s no need to panic, especially if they appear during allergy season, after you’ve been outside or just cleared something from your eye, etc. If your eye doctor determines there is no underlying reason and nothing can be done, you can ignore them.
Over time, your brain will adjust to them a bit and you won’t notice them as often. In the meantime, your doctor will tell you to check-in if they persist, become worse, or if they negatively impact your vision.
Management of underlying conditions/medications
If floaters are caused by underlying health conditions or due to a medication interaction, we can work with your general physician or specialist to support your health management plan. This may reduce or eliminate the presence of floaters over time.
If your vitreous is so full of floaters that it has become a nuisance or they are diminishing vision, your eye doctor may recommend a vitrectomy. S/he will get rid of the floaters altogether by removing the vitreous humor (that liquid/gelatin-like substance that keeps your eye shape and creates interior eye pressure). This is done through a very small incision in the eye and is completely pain-free.
Once the vitreous is removed, s/he’ll insert a “substitute” liquid to hold your eye shape and your body will take over. Pretty soon, your eye will absorb the harmless filler substitute and make new (and, hopefully) floater-free vitreous. You’ll be sent home with antibiotic eye drops to protect the eye as it heals. Other than minor eye irritation and potential light sensitivity for that first day or two, the incision will heal quickly.
Laser therapy for spots and floaters
This is not the same thing as LASIK surgery. Laser therapy is a non-surgical procedure that uses carefully targeted lasers to eliminate the floaters. This therapy is still considered experimental and should only be performed by an eye doctor that has the experience and an overwhelmingly successful track record.
If the laser is misdirected and hits the retina, it can do permanent damage. We typically recommend starting with the treatments listed above and only pursuing laser therapy to treat floaters only if absolutely necessary. Studies have mixed results and while some patients have experienced relief from irritating floaters, others have actually experienced an increase in floaters after having laser therapy.
“Natural Remedies” To Prevent Or Eliminate Floaters
Besides observing routine eye exams, there are some other “natural” things you can do to prevent or reduce floaters, spots, and flashes. Those include:
- Hydrating. Be sure to drink your eight glasses of water per day. This supports healthy vitreous levels and consistency. Plus, being hydrated is good for whole-body function.
- Eating well. Eating well and exercising supports healthy weight management and reduces your risk for developing type 2 diabetes and virtually any other potential health complication. If you are pre or type 2, a healthy diet and lifestyle changes can support diabetes management with a reduced need for medication.
- Give your eyes a break. Screentime is not good for the eyes. The Year of the Pandemic has created a situation where adults and children are spending more time than ever in front of screens and gadgets. Read our post, Eye Strain Caused by Too Much Screen Time for more about that. Set a timer for every 20 to 30 minutes. When it goes off. Get up, stretch, and try to look outside or across the room (at least 20 feet away) for a minute or so to reduce eye strain.
- Protecting your eyes. Wearing safety glasses when performing yard work, doing home repairs, or in any situation where your eyes are at risk prevents injuries that contribute to floaters or make them worse.
Is It Time To Make An Appointment?
Are you seeing spots and floaters or flashes more often than normal? Are floaters affecting your ability to read, watch TV, drive, or enjoy the view outside? Schedule an appointment with Atlantic Eye Institute and we’ll take care of the floaters for you.