Floaters: What to do when you are seeing spots
Do tiny blacks shapes dance on your white living room wall? Do you catch little black circles or comes floating in your peripheral vision? Spots before the eyes, called floaters, can be frustrating to patients and doctors alike. The standard answer, once a serious physical problem has been ruled out, has been to learn to live with them.
Floaters are an appropriate name for these small dark shapes that appear before your eyes, because float through your field of vision is precisely what they do. These spots may look like squiggles, strands or any of a hundred other shapes. Though they can be annoying, floaters are harmless, and there are ways to minimize or prevent them through proper diet and other methods discussed below. But if you suddenly become aware of floaters, or if they're accompanied by bright flashes of light, it may signal a retinal or vitreous detachment and the need for emergency care.
What Causes Floaters?
Generally, floaters are caused when cells or proteins in the vitreous humor stick or group together. Some are the remains of fetal eye formation: as the eye develops before birth, blood vessels grow through the center of the eye. These blood vessels usually dissolve during the last three months before birth. Sometimes, however, they don't disappear completely, so those tiny "strands" you might see floating up the wall are actually shadows of those prenatal blood vessels.
Floaters also result when the vitreous becomes detached from its connection to the optic nerve. The tissue that attaches the vitreous to the optic nerve contains pigment in the shape of a ring, so when this detaches and floats in front of the retina, it casts an intense and disturbing shadow. About 50 per cent of all Americans experience vitreous detachment over the age of 70 years old; fortunately, there's usually no bleeding or retinal detachment.
Floaters are more common in nearsighted people and in people with food allergies and candidiasis (yeast allergies). Vitreous detachment also is common in diabetics.
Vitamins and Minerals
The following are some of the essential nutrients for treating floaters. Antioxidants such as Vitamin A, C, and E, beta carotene, selenium and bioflavinoids may prevent damage to the vitreous, which causes floaters.
Vitamin C not only strengthens connective tissue in the eye, but is also concentrated in the vitreous, where it is found in high levels. Take no more than 1500 mg of vitamin C per day if you have floaters. More than that may reduce the absorption of minerals such as calcium, chromium and copper, and actually result in an increase in floaters.
Calcium helps strengthen the eye's connective tissue. A low level of calcium in the blood, in proportion to phosphorus, has been related to an increase in nearsightedness and floaters.
Calcium and phosphorus work together to maintain the body's proper acid balance. When this balance is not maintained, your risk for floaters increases. Because the American diet is typically high in phosphorus (due primarily to our high intake of soda and meat), avoid excess phosphorus.
Glucosamine repairs and rebuilds the vitreous connective tissues to help prevent vitreous detachments. We recommend 1500 mg per day Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, floaters are an indication of congestion in the liver, kidney and colon. The herbs prescribed for floaters are chosen for their abilities to eliminate congestion in these organs in order to keep the vitreous of the eye clear from these annoying specks.
The herbs used in Chinese medicine for floaters harmonize the functions of the liver and support its ability to promote the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body, mind and spirit. They nourish the blood in the liver meridan ( to help move stuck energy) and strengthen the spleen and stomach. All of these combine to help resolve the congealing of fluid in the body (floaters are usually the literal reflections of congealed fluid in the eye). Our research has shown that a combination of Chinese and Western herbs are helpful in the treatment of floaters. We recommend the following herbs.
Hsiao Yao Wan (Relaxed Wanderer Pills) is the standard remedy for constrained energy in the liver meridan. These herbs help the liver to spread energy throughout the body and to eyes. The most important herb in this formula is bupleurum, whose primary role is to break through obstuctions and restore the free flow of energy and blood. The adjunct herbs in this formula- peony root, dong quai, poria fungus, atractylodes, ginger and licorice- support the liver and digestive system. They relieve dampness, promote digestion, and move and disperse stuck energy, thus helping the congealed fluid that composes floaters to disperse.
Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) is a powerful liver tonic that helps purify the bloodstream.
Dandelion root (Taraxacum officinalis radix) is also a liver tonic that aids in digestion and balances blood sugar levels in the body. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) promotes circulation and blood flow to the body and the eyes.
Invest in a good pair of ultraviolet 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 as we age.
For more information on floaters see our Natural Eye Care website.
WARNING; If you suddenly become aware of new spots in your vision see your eye doctor IMMEDIATELY to rule out any serious problems.
About the author
Dr. Grossman has helped many people maintain healthy vision and even improve eyesight. He is best described as a Developmental/Behavioral Optometrist, 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.
Learn more at www.naturaleyecare.com