You may know the feeling: Out of nowhere, you start seeing black “spots” across the sky. You look away for a moment, but then you see them on your arm. They seem to be following you! That’s when it dawns on you – the fleck is on your eyeball. Eye floaters!
What Are Eye Floaters?
Eye floaters are a common occurrence. They often appear as spots, lines, or web-like shapes that seem to “float” across your line of sight. The more you try to focus on them, the more they seem to shift about.
But what are they? And how did they get there?
Floaters are tiny, harmless clusters of proteins from the vitreous of the eye. The vitreous is a gel-like substance that hangs out in the back of your eye. But you’re not really seeing these proteins directly. You’re only seeing the shadow of them on your retina.
Eye floaters can affect younger people but very commonly affect the aging population as the vitreous tends to become “stringier” with age, which creates more (and larger) floaters. Some older people start seeing spots so chronically, they feel as if their sight is being greatly affected.
When To Be Concerned About Floaters in Eyes
Though floaters in eyes are quite harmless, they can sometimes be associated with such issues as:
- Retinal tears or injuries
And if your eye floaters seem to suddenly increase in size or frequency you should definitely consult your eye doctor.
Though seeing spots may not be cause for alarm, it’s important to know how to take good care of your eyes in general. It’s extremely easy to take your vision for granted, but your eyes need to be treated with extra special care.
In order to keep your vision at its best, especially during your later years, here are a few key eye-health tips:
Always Wear UV-Blocking Sunglasses
Studies show that the sun can contribute to cataracts as well as more serious conditions caused by radiation. That’s why eye specialists recommend always wearing sunglasses when you’re out and about – especially:
- During the summertime
- When you’re at the snow or by the water (due to the sun’s harsh reflection)
- When using medications that can cause light sensitivity
Be sure that your sunglasses are labeled with 99% or higher UV-blocking protection. There are also contact lenses that now come with UV protection.
Protect Your Eyes At Work and Play
Each year it’s estimated that more than 2.5 million eye injuries occur in the U.S.5 Some of these injuries involve accidents where you couldn’t possibly prepare, but many could have been avoided if the correct eye protection was worn.
So if you play sports like hockey or baseball, be sure your eye protection always meets the specific requirements of your sport. If you love DIY work around the home like gardening or building, protective eyewear can easily and cheaply be purchased at your local hardware store.
If your job requires eye protection, don’t assume that just because you’re excellent at your job that you don’t need it anymore. Accidents do, and will continue to, happen.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Though carrots may not actually help you to see in the dark, don’t underestimate the power of a wholesome diet to “feed” your eyes. After all, vitamin deficiencies can seriously affect your vision.
For example, vitamin A plays an important role in making your vision possible.
The current recommended vitamins for fighting age-related macular degeneration (AMD) include a variety of antioxidants, carotenoids, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The best thing you can do for your eyes is to eat a lot of vegetables, especially the green, leafy variety. But if you feel that you’re not getting enough, especially if you’re older, these are the vitamins that the American Macular Degeneration Foundation suggests that you supplement:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin D3
- Omega-3 fatty acids
Simply put: Smoking tobacco, such as cigarettes or hookah, increases your risk of developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Though quitting smoking is no easy feat, everything begins with a small step. There is absolutely no shame in asking for help.
Regular Check-Ups With Your Optometrist
Eye exams aren’t just for people with vision problems. These exams are essential for everyone, at every age. Regular eye exams are how eye specialists monitor any potential eye problems that may arise as you age. Early detection, like with any condition, is always the best defense.
If all looks good with your eye health, you will usually be told to follow-up once a year. It’s important that you stick to this schedule.
If you have a family history of eye disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, your doctor may advise that you visit a little more regularly.
Now Eye See …
Your eyes should never be taken for granted, because your vision may not always be perfect. That’s just a fact of growing older. Even something as harmless as seeing black spots due to an occasional floater can become incredibly frustrating.
But you can do your best to make sure that you give your eyes the very best shot at long-term health, by following a few simple pieces of advice from the experts.