Floaters – so what are Floaters and why are they a health problem?

Floaters are small shapes that some people see floating in their field of vision.
Floaters are small shapes that some people see floating in their field of vision.

Floaters are small shapes that some people see floating in their field of vision.

They can be different shapes and sizes and may look like:

tiny black dots

small, shadowy dots

larger cloud-like spots

long, narrow strands

You may have many small floaters in your field of vision or just one or two larger ones. Most floaters are small and quickly move out of your field of vision.

Floaters are often most noticeable when you’re looking at a light-coloured background, such as a white wall or clear sky.

Do floaters affect vision?

Floaters sometimes occur without a person noticing them. This is because the brain constantly adapts to changes in vision and learns to ignore floaters so they don’t affect vision.

Floaters are usually harmless and don’t significantly affect your vision. However, it’s important you have your eyes checked by an optician regularly (at least once every two years).

Larger floaters can be distracting and may make activities involving high levels of concentration, such as reading or driving, difficult.

Find an optician near you.

What causes floaters?

Floaters are small pieces of debris that float in the eye’s vitreous humour. Vitreous humour is a clear, jelly-like substance that fills the space in the middle of the eyeball.

The debris casts shadows on to the retina (the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of the eye). If you have floaters, it’s these shadows you’ll see.

Floaters can occur as your eyes change with age. In most cases, they don’t cause significant problems and don’t require treatment.

In rare cases, floaters may be a sign of a retinal tear or retinal detachment (where the retina starts to pull away from the blood vessels that supply it with oxygen and nutrients).

Read more about the causes of floaters.

Floaters can’t be prevented because they’re part of the natural ageing process.

When to seek medical help

Visit your optician immediately if you notice an increase or sudden change in your floaters, particularly if you notice white flashes and some loss of vision.

Your optician may refer you to an ophthalmologist (a specialist in diagnosing and treating eye conditions) who can check your retina for tears or retinal detachment.

Even though floaters are usually harmless and don’t significantly affect your vision, it’s important you have your eyes checked regularly by an optician (at least once every two years).

Read more about diagnosing floaters.

Treating floaters

In most cases, floaters don’t cause major problems and don’t require treatment. Eye drops or similar types of medication won’t make floaters disappear.

After a while, your brain learns to ignore floaters and you may not notice them.

If your floaters don’t improve over time, or if they significantly affect your vision, a vitrectomy may be recommended. This is a surgical operation to remove the vitreous humour in your eye along with any floating debris and replace it with a saline (salty) solution.

If your retina has become detached, surgery is the only way to re-attach it. Without surgery, a total loss of vision is almost certain. In 90% of cases, only one operation is needed to re-attach the retina.

Read more about treating floaters.

Fatigue – Self-help tips to fight fatigue

Fatigue - Self-help tips to fight fatigue
Fatigue – Self-help tips to fight fatigue
Many cases of unexplained tiredness are due to stress, not enough sleep, poor diet and other lifestyle factors. Use these self-help tips to restore your energy levels.

Eat often to beat tiredness

A good way to keep up your energy through the day is to eat regular meals and healthy snacks every three to four hours, rather than a large meal less often.

Read more about healthy eating.

Perk up with exercise

You might feel too tired to exercise, but regular exercise will make you feel less tired in the long run, and you’ll have more energy. Even a single 15-minute walk can give you an energy boost, and the benefits increase with more frequent physical activity.

Start with a small amount of exercise. Build up your physical activity gradually over weeks and months until you reach the recommended goal of two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.

Read more about starting exercise.

Find out the physical activity guidelines for adults.

Lose weight to gain energy

If your body is carrying excess weight, it can be exhausting. It also puts extra strain on your heart, which can make you tired. Lose weight and you’ll feel much more energetic. Apart from eating healthily, the best way to lose weight is to be more active and do more exercise.

Read more about how to lose weight.

Sleep well

It sounds obvious, but two-thirds of us suffer from sleep problems, and many people don’t get the sleep they need to stay alert through the day. The Royal College of Psychiatrists advises going to bed and getting up in the morning at the same time every day; avoid naps through the day, and have a hot bath before bed (as hot as you can bear without scalding you) for at least 20 minutes.

Read more about how to get a good night’s sleep.

Try these NHS-approved sleep apps to help you sleep well.

Reduce stress to boost energy

Stress uses up a lot of energy. Try to introduce relaxing activities into your day. This could be working out at the gym, or a gentler option, such as listening to music, reading or spending time with friends. Whatever relaxes you will improve your energy.

Read more about how to relieve stress.

Talking therapy beats fatigue

There’s some evidence that talking therapies such as counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) might help to fight fatigue. See your GP for a referral for talking treatment on the NHS or for advice on seeing a private therapist.

Read more about counselling.

Cut out caffeine

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that anyone feeling tired should cut out caffeine. It says the best way to do this is to gradually stop having all caffeine drinks (this includes coffee, tea and cola drinks) over a three-week period. Try to stay off caffeine completely for a month to see if you feel less tired without it.

You may find that not consuming caffeine gives you headaches. If this happens, cut down more slowly on the amount of caffeine that you drink.

Drink less alcohol

Although a few glasses of wine in the evening helps you fall asleep, you sleep less deeply after drinking alcohol. The next day you’ll be tired, even if you sleep a full eight hours.

Cut down on alcohol before bedtime. You’ll get a better night’s rest and have more energy. The NHS recommends that men and women should not regularly drink more than 14 units a week, which is equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or 10 small glasses of low strength wine.

Read more about how to cut down on alcohol.

Drink more water for better energy

Sometimes you feel tired simply because you’re mildly dehydrated. A glass of water will do the trick, especially after exercise.

Read about healthy drinks.

Autism awareness – please like and share this infographic to help us promote autism awareness and acceptance

Autism awareness – please like and share this infographic to help us promote autism awareness and acceptance.

As the parent of a 10 year old on the autism spectrum one of my main ambitions in life is to help promote both autism awareness and autism acceptance!

So might I ask for your help!

Please can you share this page on social media (like Twitter or Facebook) or just email it to family and friends.


Because each person who is better informed about autism is one person more likely to accept people on the autism spectrum!

Lurie Center - Autism Awareness
by kobieta.


Autism and Timothy Syndrome
Autism and Timothy Syndrome

“A rare syndrome linked to autism could help explain the origins of the condition,” BBC News reported. The broadcaster said that in the search for clues about autism, scientists have examined a rare condition called Timothy syndrome, which can cause autistic behaviour. Although just 20 people are thought to have the condition worldwide, it is of interest because the cause has been pinpointed to a single gene defect.

In a new laboratory study, scientists took skin cells from two people with Timothy syndrome and converted them into nerve cells for use in a series of experiments. They found that the types of nerve cells that developed differed from those in people without Timothy syndrome, and that activity of specific genes varied in these cells.

Although scientists found that one of these differences in gene activity could be reversed by a particular experimental drug in the laboratory, it is unclear whether this would have any practical benefit in people with Timothy syndrome. It is also unclear to what extent the results represent what happens in most autistic spectrum disorders, which are not caused by this syndrome. Overall, further study of the Timothy syndrome nerve cells and animal studies of the syndrome will be needed to understand Timothy syndrome and its implications for autism.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from Stanford University and other research centres in the US and Japan. It was funded by the US National Institutes of Health, US National Institute of Mental Health, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and the Simons Foundation for Autism Research. The study was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.

This story was covered in a balanced way by BBC News. It explained that Timothy syndrome is a rare cause of autism and included a quote from one of the researchers that put the findings of this exploratory lab research into context.

What kind of research was this?

This laboratory research looked at the effects of an extremely rare condition called Timothy syndrome, which causes a range of problems, including heart rhythm problems, developmental delay, and usually autistic spectrum disorder. People with the condition usually die in childhood from their heart problems. According to the US National Library of Medicine, there are only 20 reported cases of the condition worldwide.

The condition is caused by a mutation in a gene called CACNA1C, which is involved in the production of calcium channels, key protein structures that allow cells to control the flow of electrically charged atoms (ions) into the cells. The flow of calcium ions is involved in a range of important cellular functions, including the generation of electrical signals, cell-to-cell communication and the regulation of certain genes.

The study looked at how the Timothy syndrome mutation affects brain cells, to try to understand how this might lead to autism in the affected individuals. Although most people with autism do not have Timothy syndrome, the researchers hoped that understanding this rare syndrome would shed light on the brain changes that might cause the more common forms of autism. It may also help them eventually identify drugs that could help treat autism, but this would be a longer-term goal.

Laboratory research is the most appropriate way to investigate this type of question, as it would be difficult to do this kind of research in humans.

What did the research involve?

The researchers took skin cells from two people with Timothy syndrome and three people without Timothy syndrome (controls). They used recently developed techniques to “re-programme” the skin cells to become stem cells in the laboratory. Stem cells are “building block” cells that can develop into any form of cell in the body. The researchers treated the stem cells in a way that encouraged them to develop into types of nerve cells (neurons) found in the outer region of the human brain, in an area called the cortex. They then studied how the Timothy syndrome-derived nerve cells differed from the normal control nerve cells.

Nerve cells transmit signals using electrical impulses, which they generate by controlling the flow of electrically charged atoms (ions) across the cell’s membrane. Given that Timothy syndrome is caused by a mutation in a gene that produces one protein involved in the transport of calcium ions, the researchers were interested in whether the Timothy syndrome nerve cells performed similarly to control nerve cells, for example in how they sent electrical signals.

The flow of calcium into cells also influences which genes are switched on in the cells, so the researchers also looked at whether this was affected in Timothy syndrome nerve cells. They also looked at whether the nerve cells derived from people with Timothy syndrome were of the same types as the control nerve cells. They did this by looking for genes that are only switched on in specific types of nerve cells. The researchers also used genetically engineered mice carrying the Timothy syndrome mutation to see if their brain cells showed similar effects.

They also investigated the effect of drugs that block the flow of calcium into the cell through the protein channel affected by Timothy syndrome.

What were the basic results?

The researchers found that similar numbers of nerve cells could be obtained from the reprogrammed Timothy syndrome and control stem cells, and that the cells could divide and grow in similar ways. Nerve cells carry messages using electrical impulses, and the Timothy syndrome nerve cells had slightly different electrical properties to control nerve cells. At a specific point during electrical signalling, the Timothy syndrome nerve cells allowed more calcium to flow into them than the control nerve cells did.

The activity of certain genes was also found to differ between the Timothy syndrome nerve cells and the control nerve cells. Of these genes, it had previously been suggested that 11 play a role in autistic spectrum disorders or intellectual disability.

A greater proportion of the Timothy syndrome nerve cells than the control nerve cells were found to resemble the nerves found in the upper layer of the cortex. Also, fewer Timothy syndrome nerve cells were found to resemble the nerves found in the lower layer of the cortex. In particular, the researchers found that fewer of the Timothy syndrome nerve cells switched on a gene called SATB2, which is normally switched on in a specific type of lower layer nerve cell. The researchers also found fewer brain nerve cells producing SATB2 in mice carrying the Timothy syndrome mutation.

More human Timothy syndrome nerve cells switched on a gene called TH, which makes an enzyme that is important for normal signalling between cells in the nervous system. However, this increased TH activity was not found in the brains of mice carrying the Timothy syndrome mutation. During lab tests, the researchers were able to reduce the activity of the TH gene by treating the mice with a chemical called roscovitine.


How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers concluded that their findings provided “strong evidence” that the CACNA1C gene, which is mutated in Timothy syndrome, normally regulates the development of nerve cells in the cortex of the brain. They say that this offers “new insights into the causes of autism in individuals with Timothy syndrome”.



This study has furthered researchers’ understanding of the effects of the Timothy syndrome mutation on nerve cells in the laboratory. This type of research has been made possible because of recent scientific advances that allow researchers to produce different types of cell, including nerves, from stem cells derived from adult skin cells. This has granted them a supply of nerve cells that do not need to be sourced from people’s brains or from animals. The results may be more representative of what happens in humans than if the researchers only studied cells from mice that were genetically engineered to carry the Timothy syndrome mutation. Studying these individual skin-derived nerve cells is unlikely to be fully representative of the complexities of the developing human brain, but is likely to be the best method currently available.

Importantly, although the experimental drug roscovitine was found to reduce the activity of one gene in nerve cells derived from the skin of people with Timothy syndrome, whether this would produce any practical benefit for people with this syndrome is not known. Much more laboratory and animal research would be needed to assess the potential effects (including side effects) of this or similar drugs before they could be tested on people with this syndrome. It is also worth noting that Timothy syndrome is a very rare cause of autism. It is not clear to what extent these findings apply to more common forms of autism.

Overall, further study of these Timothy syndrome nerve cells and in animal models of the syndrome will be needed to confirm the results and improve our understanding of the condition.

Survey about the Common Core and Students with Disabilities


Survey about the Common Core and Students with Disabilities
Survey about the Common Core and Students with Disabilities

You are invited to participate in a national survey about the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and students with disabilities.

The purposes of this research are to: (a) identify the extent to which special education teachers are familiar with the CCSS; (b) identify the extent to which special education teachers use the CCSS in their classrooms; and (c) identify the perspectives of special education teachers toward the CCSS as applied to the instruction of students with disabilities.

My name is Damien E. LaRock, and I am a doctoral candidate at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York. If you have any questions about this survey, you may contact me at del2109@tc.columbia.edu.

In order to qualify for this study, you must:

(a) be/have been a teacher who holds a certificate and/or degree in special education (teaching students with disabilities) and

(b) have taught at least one student with a disability [a student with an Individualized Education Program (IEP)] between grades Kindergarten and 12 while using the CCSS.

If you meet the above qualifications and would like to participate, please click on the link below. Completing this survey is voluntary and you may stop at any time or skip any questions you do not wish to answer. This survey generally takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. Your name will not be collected, and any personal information you provide will be completely confidential. Only results without identifying information will be presented. You will learn more about this study when you click on the link, after which you may begin the survey.

As an incentive, you will be entered into a lottery to receive one of several $50.00 Amazon e-gift cards. Your chances of winning the lottery are approximately 1 in 50.

If you know other special education teachers who qualify as participants for this study, you may share the survey link with them.

I appreciate your input very much! It will help me to complete my doctoral research and it will add valuable information to the national discussion about special education and the CCSS!