May 23, 2022
Eye floaters are gray or black specks, cobwebs, or strings that drift around your eye. When you try to look at them directly, they seem to dart away. Floaters are often caused by age-related changes in the eye.
There’s a jelly-like substance in our eyes called the vitreous that becomes more liquid the older we get. Tiny, microscopic fibers in the vitreous clump together and cast a shadow on the retina. It’s those shadows that you see that are the floaters.
Floaters can be dark specks or transparent, knobby strings. They show up when you aren’t trying to focus on them or when you look at a bright, plain background. It’s tough to look directly at a floater because they move out of the way when you change your focus. Eventually, the specks or string settle down and slide out of your line of sight.
There are a variety of different events that can cause eye floaters, including the following:
Age-related eye changes. The vitreous becomes partially liquefied as you age. As it shrinks and sags, it also clumps together and gets stringy, which blocks the light as it passes through your eye and casts a tiny shadow on the retina. These shadows become floaters.
The back of the eye becoming inflamed. When the layers in the back of the eye become inflamed, debris can be released into the vitreous and observed as floaters. Inflammation can be caused by disease, infection, or other issues.
Eye medications and surgery. When some medications are injected into the eye, it causes air bubbles to form. These bubbles cast shadows on the retina and are viewed as floaters until the body absorbs them. Adding silicone oil bubbles to the vitreous during some surgeries also causes floaters.
Bleeding in the eye. Injury, blocked blood vessels, diabetes, and hypertension can all cause bleeding in the vitreous, and the blood cells are viewed as floaters.
A torn retina. As the vitreous sags, it pulls on the retina and could tug hard enough to tear it.
When to see a doctor
Most of the time, floaters are harmless. They may increase slightly as you age, but they are only slightly annoying rather than a threat. There are some cases where they do become a threat, and that’s when you should immediately contact a doctor.
If you experience more floaters than usual, there are suddenly new floaters, flashes of light occur in the same eye as the floater, or darkness appears on any side of your vision, you should contact a professional immediately. These could be a sign that the retina has torn or perhaps detached, and that can be a threat to your sight that requires immediate attention.
- Two out of every three Americans who are visually impaired are female?
- Women make up 2.6 of the 4.1 million Americans age 40 and above who are visually impaired or blind.
- Women are at higher risk for eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
Let’s take a look at a few of the major factors.
Menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause are all driven by hormones, so they play a big factor. Recent studies have shown that fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone can affect vision and contribute to dry eye syndrome and glaucoma, especially after menopause.
Over 14% of the adult population suffers from migraines, a chronic neurological disease. Women in the United States have a cumulative lifetime migraine incidence of 43% while men have an incidence of only 18%. Hormones and structural differences in the brain contribute to women having longer attacks, increased recurrence, greater disability, and longer recovery times. Migraine is often accompanied by visual impairments such as photophobia, visual aura, and transient vision loss.
A woman's health journey during pregnancy presents unique circumstances, as the dramatic changes her body undergoes act as a stress test for future health, including her eye health. A woman may develop eye disease during this time that may or may not subside after the pregnancy. During pregnancy, for example, cellular immunity decreases, which can lead to autoimmune diseases, such as TED (thyroid eye disease), diabetes, obesity and hypertension which can continue to worsen postpartum.
Thyroid eye disease
Women are more likely to develop thyroid disorders or diseases after pregnancy and menopause, according to the American Thyroid Association. Graves' ophthalmopathy, also known as thyroid eye disease (TED), is an autoimmune inflammatory condition affecting the eye and surrounding tissues. There are 16 females affected by the disease for every 100,000 people, compared with 3 men per 100,000 people.
Many women function as caregivers for their children and elderly parents, with some studies showing they make up 60-75% of caregivers in the US. While caring for others, they often put their own needs, including health, aside. This makes comprehensive eye exams essential, especially after age 40.
Gender inequities in eye health
Women are under pressure to maintain their physical appearances, which often involves using cosmetics and personal care products that are under-regulated and have had significant negative effects on eye health, including contact dermatitis, bacterial infections, dry eyes, and other serious conditions.
- Contact lenses, particularly cosmetic lenses.
- Retinoids in anti-aging creams applied around the eye can affect the surrounding oil glands and contribute to dry eye disease.
- Eye makeup & enhancing eyelashes have become increasingly popular in recent years. Symptoms of dry eye and meibomian gland dysfunction are associated with them.
Women’s average life expectancy is 80 years compared to 73 years for men. This very simple factor means they will have more opportunity to experience degenerative vision loss in their later years.
Access to resources and healthcare:
According to researchers, the lack of access to health care for single mothers or elderly women is determined by where they live and how much they earn. The inability to obtain quality eye care is limited when one is uninsured, underinsured, or lives in poverty.
Steps to keep your eyes at their best
Know your family history:
Certain eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with macular degeneration, you have a 70 percent chance of developing it yourself. You are four to nine times more likely to develop glaucoma if you have a family history of the disease. Find out about your family members' eye conditions. Get your eyes checked and tell them about your family history to evaluate your risk.
Eat healthy foods:
The entire body benefits from a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, including the eyes. Among the eye-healthy foods are citrus fruits, vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, and cold-water fish.
It is no secret that smoking increases the risk for eye diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Smoking also increases the risk for cardiovascular disease which can indirectly affect your eye health. Dry eyes are also exacerbated by tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke.
Ultraviolet UV light increases the risk of eye diseases, including cataracts, fleshy grow adjust-items-centerths on the eye, and cancer. While spending time outdoors, wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and a hat.
May is Women’s Health Month, so make a commitment to yourself to get an eye exam and look at developing healthy habits for better vision for a clear future.
If you are a woman over 40 we encourage you to start a new healthy habit and make an appointment at Island Retina for a yearly exam!