The vitreous, the transparent gel-like substance that fills our eyeball, is composed of 99% water and 1% collagen fiber. In the early stages, the vitreous is firm and binds perfectly to the wall of the retina. However, over time, the vitreous becomes ‘imperfect’, and it is the degeneration of the vitreous that is behind most causes of floaters in the eye.
Here are the key causes of floaters in the eye.
1. Vitreous Liquefaction
As we grow older, a process called syneresis takes place whereby small, random parts of the vitreous liquefies, creating pockets of liquid within the firm vitreous. Sometimes, the boundary between the normal and the liquid vitreous are reflected by light on to the retina, causing floaters to be seen. During this process also, some of the collagen fibers combine and appear as a twisted or a tangled ball of thread.
2. PVD (Posterior Vitreous Detachment)
As more and more of the vitreous liquefies, the vitreous starts to lose its firmness and begins to slowly detach itself from the retina.
This is called posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). Sometimes the vitreous pulls too hard on the retina, causing it to bleed. The traces of blood or the debris caused by PVD are then seen as eye floaters.
3. Retinal Detachment
We have always been warned to seek medical attention if floaters appear very suddenly. Here is the reason.
When a retinal tear occurs, liquid vitreous will slowly flow into the inner layer of the retina, causing it to completely detach itself from the underlying layer. This is called retinal detachment and can lead to blindness. Retinal detachment is preceded by a sudden appearance of floaters.
4. Bleeding from blood vessels in the eye
As the vitreous pulls away from the retina, it may cause a retinal blood vessel to rupture. The blood traces will flow into the vitreous, causing the appearance of eye floaters.
In my book, The Top 10 Drugs That May Cause Eye Floaters, statistics have shown that there are certain drugs that show symptom of eye floaters. However, there is inconclusive proof that taking these medications may result in eye floaters.
6. Eye Injury
Sometimes a hard blow to the eye may also cause floaters to appear. During impact, the rapid push and pull exerted on the eyeball may cause the vitreous to pull hard on the retina, causing the retina to tear.
7. Diabetic Retinopathy
As a result of having high sugar levels for an extended period of time, diabetics risk having an eye complication called diabetic retinopathy. This is a condition where the blood capillaries that supply nutrients to the retina start to change. Sometimes these vessels swell and drip small amounts of liquid or blood into the eye. Sometimes the blood vessels close off, causing inadequate blood supply to the retina. When this happens, new blood vessels emerge to compensate for the ones that no longer function. The new blood vessels are fragile and rupture easily. When this happens, blood flows into the vitreous, causing eye floaters to appear.
8. Cataract surgery
Eye operations, such as cataract surgery can cause eye trauma, or change the position of the vitreous, subsequently giving rise to posterior vitreous detachment. Another reason why floaters appear after a cataract operation is because patients are able to see better after the operation, and may mistake existing floaters as new floaters.
9. Eye Inflammation
The inflammation of the eye, or uveitis, can occur as a result of an infection. Uveitis can trigger liquefaction of the vitreous, which we’ve learnt earlier leads to PVD, a leading cause of floaters in the eye.
Many individuals who suffer from stress believe it had something to do with their floaters. Regardless of the absence of medical studies to proof this, there is a general acceptance of this relationship among those who suffer from both eye floaters and stress.
In today’s technology, with the proliferation of hand-held gadgets, the eye strain caused by prolonged use of these gadgets can lead to short-sightedness. Short-sightedness, or myopia, is a known risk factor for developing a PVD.
Now that you understand what causes eye floaters, you will also start to appreciate that a solution that only takes care of one out of the 10 factors above will not be an effective eye floaters cure. In order to effectively cure eye floaters, you will need a combination of solutions that takes care of some of the major causes above.