Living with floaters?
October 26, 2009 5:44 AM   Subscribe

Any advice for getting rid of or living with floaters in my eyes?

I'm 29, nearsighted, and just spent six months in front of a computer working on my dissertation. Over that time, my eyesight has gotten noticeably worse. My distance prescription hasn't changed, but my night vision is worse and, annoyingly, I seem to have a lot of floaters in both eyes. I went to the optometrist and everything checked out fine after a very detailed exam. There were some issues with near-field focussing (some kind of eye strain), probably related to staring at my computer so much, but they gave me a prescription for use when I'm working and it has definitely helped.

I'm not terribly worried about the floaters since they really checked out my eyes (almost 2 hours of tests, dilation, all sorts of bright lights), but they are very annoying. Its been a few months now and I haven't noticed them blending in or disappearing at all. It looks like I'm stuck with them.

What I'd like to know is whether anyone has had any luck getting rid of floaters or training yourself not to notice them. How do you do this? Will they ever go away or be less noticeable?
posted by kms to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a good explanation about what floaters are and why they won't be going away.

I've had them for years. Some days, they're more noticeable than others. I find them to be less noticeable in lower light than in brighter light. You get used to them. Also, it is good to familiarize yourself with your floaters. That way, if a new one appears, you can have your eyes checked again.
posted by onhazier at 5:58 AM on October 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't have a solution for floaters but while at Uni my optometrist told me to work on a floor in the library that had lots of pretty girls and sit where I had a view of them. This was to prevent the kind of eye strain you have from focusing on close reading materials for too long and making your eye muscles seize up. Look into the distance every 15 minutes or so.

Literally, find yourself a sight for sore eyes and you will probably find your prescription unnecessary.

Also, be aware that computer work can lead to your eyes drying out due to infrequent blinking.
posted by srboisvert at 5:58 AM on October 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

I have always had some floaters, but they got noticeably worse when I was in graduate school. I was doing a lot of staring at computers and had to attend lab meetings in a room with a lot of stark white walls which seemed to make them stand out and become even more distracting. After being checked out by an opthamologist, I was told that I'd just have to get used to them. I think just knowing that there was nothing horribly wrong with my eyeballs helped me to not pay attention to them so much.

Also: I have nothing to back this up, and I'm not entirely sure this info came from the opthomologist, but I remember hearing that stress can make floaters worse. Regardless, managing your stress is never a bad thing. I am almost certain that I have less of them now (and I'm under a whole lot less stress), but I still notice them here and there when I'm in a very brightly lit room.

Definitely give your eyes a break if you are staring at a computer screen for long periods of time. Floaters aside, this can dry out your eyes.

Hope this helps!
posted by Carhart at 6:40 AM on October 26, 2009

I have been told by my eye doctor that everyone has floaters. The difference among people is that some notice them and some do not.
posted by dfriedman at 6:56 AM on October 26, 2009

I think I have found* that eye-exercise, in the form of changing your focal distance often, can help.

That is, the reason "sitting at a screen all day" caused a problem is not some kind of screen/radiation/light magic, it's just that you were focused at the same 18-inches for long long stretches. Looking around more often, walking outside a few times per day, just generally mixing up the range of depth you're dealing with.... that can help your, um... eye muscle things. (Can you tell I'm not a doctor yet?)

* At least, I find that my eyes are a lot better in all ways after a various and jumbled few weeks on the road, rather than a month at the same desk/screens. But of course, maybe it's the fresh air, changing air pressure or elevations, or some other coincidence.
posted by rokusan at 7:10 AM on October 26, 2009

I just searched for info a couple of days ago after noticing an annoying new floater. I found this via the wiki.
posted by various at 7:11 AM on October 26, 2009

Barring some kind of medical breakthrough (and I don't think the floater problem is one that attracts the best and brightest minds in the field of medicine, if you get my drift), the floaters are something that you're just going to have to learn to live with.
posted by box at 7:31 AM on October 26, 2009

I got really noticeable floaters after an illness. I started exercising to make my back pain go away and noticed that my floaters recede when I exercise a lot, and reemerge when I am inactive. Regular exercise, no matter what.
posted by effluvia at 9:21 AM on October 26, 2009

I've lived with floaters for 35 or more years. They don't get better, they don't get worse (mine, I mean). I checked them out with an eye doctor once, who told me there's nothing to do about it, just learn to live with it. When I asked about the origin/cause, he said there wasn't much medical research on that, but (noticing my nicotine-stained mustache and smelly breath) he said smoking was possibly a contributory cause. But then, doctors say that about anything, even a fractured arm or piles. :-)
posted by aqsakal at 9:38 AM on October 26, 2009

I have two floaters that have gotten neither better nor worse. I have come to embrace them. I actually look for them when I get bored. My doctor told me that there was little if anything he could do.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:49 AM on October 26, 2009

I almost never get distracted by floaters (although I do seem to be paying a lot more attention to them while reading this questions), but I can choose to direct my attention to them right now if I like, or peer at the white wall nearby and examine them in more detail.

Try taking some time each day to pay as much attention as possible to your floaters. Note what they look like, what happens when you move your eyes, how they look in different lighting conditions. Practice directing your attention from the floaters to other things, the texture of the wall, little off-color spots on the wall, shadows.
posted by yohko at 11:11 AM on October 26, 2009

I've had visual snow since I was a child (The air appears busy with little swarming circles) and I developed floaters and flashers in the last 5 years. My eye doctor said that as we get older (I'm 38 and was 36 when I went to him) the vitreous fluid in our eyes gets low and voila! we get floaters.

The only thing that seems to help the floaters and flashers is consistently taking Omega 3 capsules three times a day. Also, I notice that if my shoulders and neck muscles are tight, I have a tendency to get more flashers (not as many floaters).

Eat as healthfully as you can, too. That also seems to help me when I do it.
posted by Issithe at 11:22 AM on October 26, 2009

When I first developed my floaters, they drove me nuts, but I've mostly gotten used to them.
I don't know if they actually improve and worsen or if I just go through periods of time when I notice them more or less. I do seem to go several months without being aware of them, and then I start swiping at gnats I think are flying around my head until I realize they're floaters. Usually they bother me for a week or two and then fade back into the background.
posted by Dojie at 1:26 PM on October 26, 2009

I have heard of a process whereby doctors will suck out your eyeball juice and replace it with some type of manufactured solution, but I believe it's only done in cases of extreme quantities of floaters (such as after a tear in the retina releases blood into the eye).

I've gotten used to them, but it was kinda depressing at first -- nothing like a constant reminder of your deteriorating physical condition in your field of vision to remind you of your impending mortality. And I've wondered if excessive alcohol use might exacerbate the condition, but never looked into it.

I've come to appreciate low light levels and muted interior design, and no longer have any interest in stark white modernist kitchens.
posted by Bron at 7:20 PM on October 26, 2009

Thanks everyone for your advice. This has been very helpful and I really appreciate it.

The one thing that has made a difference so far is to actually spend a moment thinking about them directly if they're bothering me, as yohko suggested. I've found that if I'm getting distracted by them and I stop and think "Ok, now I'm going to pay attention to you annoying things" I can never really look at them and then I move on. Its not a perfect solution, and sometimes it doesn't do the trick, but it has helped a number of times now.

I'll keep you updated if I find anything that helps.
posted by kms at 12:58 PM on December 7, 2009

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