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.

Tips Playtime with Blind and visually impaired children. (And they help with sensory play for children on the autism spectrum!)

This infographic gives several tips and ideas for parents on games that are suitable for blind and visually impaired children, as well as games that are inclusive and can be played by those sighted and non-sighted.

And how you can adapt toys to be more user friendly for a visually impaired child.

There are creative ways to get your kids involved in arts and crafts too and fun activities that will help them learn how to play and develop their sensory skills. Which is why they are great for children on the autism spectrum!

Playtime with Blind and visually impaired children
Playtime with Blind and visually impaired children by Wooden Toy Shop

Few Amazing Facts on Your Eyes

Amazing fact! You are having a 576-megapixel lens in your eyes! Half of your brain works to make you see things! Your eyes are working 24/7 and eye muscles are always active!

There are 39 million blind people in the world and huge possibilities of vision loss increases above 50 years of age. Stats of UK shows that 74% population correct their eyesight by laser surgery, wearing glasses/contact lens. 30% population check their eyesight every 1 or 2 years. Even, eyes take around 48 hours to heal the repair of corneal scratch.You can correct your eyewear to have a better and clear vision of the world.

Take care of your eyes by eating more fruits and vegetables, avoid wearing contact lens for more than 19 hours and use UV protected glass.

For more information about your eyes, please check below infographic from Paul Gill Opticians.

Things you did not know about your Eyes
Things you did not know about your Eyes

Uveitis – what are the signs symptoms and causes of Uveitis? And why you need to know

Uveitis - signs , symptoms and diagnosis
Uveitis – signs , symptoms and diagnosis

Introduction

Uveitis is inflammation (swelling) of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea or uveal tract.

The uvea is made up of the iris (the coloured part of the eye), the ciliary body (the ring of muscle behind the iris), and the choroid (the layer of tissue that supports the retina).

Symptoms of uveitis include:

  • a painful red eye – the pain can range from mild aching to intense discomfort, and focusing your eye can make the pain worse; the eye can feel tender or bruised
  • blurred or cloudy vision – this may come after other symptoms
  • sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • marked or new floaters – shadows, webs, dots or veils that move across the field of vision
  • loss of peripheral vision (the ability to see objects at the side of your field of vision)
  • a pupil shaped differently or that doesn’t get smaller when reacting to light
  • headaches

One or both eyes may be affected by uveitis. The symptoms can develop suddenly or gradually over a few days.

People with long-term uveitis tend to have more visual symptoms and their eyes may look normal. Patients with sudden onset uveitis usually have more pain and tenderness.

When to seek medical advice

Contact your GP as soon as possible if you have persistent eye pain or you notice an unusual change in your vision, particularly if you’ve had previous episodes of uveitis. The sooner uveitis is treated, the more successful treatment is likely to be.

Your GP may refer you to an ophthalmologist, who is a specialist in eye conditions. An ophthalmologist will examine your eye in more detail with a microscope and light (a slit-lamp), and may suggest further tests if uveitis is diagnosed.

This may include scans of your eyes, X-rays and blood tests. Knowing the cause of your uveitis will help determine the treatment needed.

Why does uveitis happen?

There are a wide range of potential causes for uveitis, although a specific cause is not always identified.

Many cases are thought to be the result of a problem with the immune system (the body’s defence against illness and infection). For unknown reasons, the immune system can become overactive in the eye.

Less commonly, uveitis can be caused by an infection or injury to the eye, and it can also happen after eye surgery.

Read more about the causes of uveitis.

Types of uveitis

There are different types of uveitis, depending on which part of the eye is affected:

  • anterior uveitis – inflammation of the iris (iritis) or inflammation of the iris and the ciliary body (iridocyclitis); this is the most common type of uveitis, accounting for about three out of four cases, tends to come on quickly, and can be recurrent, causing pain and redness
  • intermediate uveitis – inflammation of the area behind the ciliary body and the vitreous jelly; this can cause floaters and blurred vision
  • posterior uveitis – inflammation at the back of the eye, the choroid and the retina; this can cause problems with vision

In some cases, uveitis can affect the front and back of the eye. This is known as panuveitis.

How is uveitis treated?

The main treatment of uveitis is steroid medication (corticosteroids), which can reduce inflammation inside the eye.

The type of steroid medication used depends on the type of uveitis you have. Eye drops are often used for uveitis affecting the front of the eye, whereas injections, tablets and capsules are more often used to treat uveitis affecting the middle and back of the eye.

In some cases, additional treatment may be needed. This might be eye drops to relieve pain, a type of medicine called an immunosuppressant, and even surgery.

Uveitis caused by infection needs specific treatment.

Read more about treating uveitis.

How long can it last?

Uveitis can be:

  • acute – when it resolves quickly after treatment
  • recurrent – when repeated episodes are separated by gaps of several months
  • chronic – when the condition continues long-term or requires long-term medication to control it

Complications

Although most cases of uveitis respond quickly to treatment and cause no further problems, there is a risk of complications.

The risk is higher in people who have intermediate or posterior uveitis, or have repeated episodes of uveitis.

Complications of uveitis include permanent damage of the eye and some loss of vision.

It’s estimated that the more serious types of uveitis are responsible for 1 in every 10 cases of visual impairment in the UK.

Read more about the possible complications of uveitis.

Who is affected?

Uveitis is uncommon. It’s estimated that 2 to 5 in every 10,000 people will be affected by uveitis in the UK every year.

It usually affects people aged 20 to 59, but can also occur in children. Men and women are affected equally.

It’s more likely to occur in people with other inflammatory or immune conditions.

Despite being uncommon, uveitis is a leading cause of visual impairment in the UK. This is why it’s very important to diagnose and treat the condition as early as possible.

Charles Bonnet syndrome – what are the cause, signs, symptoms and treatments of Charles Bonnet syndrome?

Charles Bonnet syndrome
Charles Bonnet syndrome

In Charles Bonnet syndrome, a person whose vision has started to deteriorate sees things that aren’t real (hallucinations).

The hallucinations may be simple patterns, or detailed images of events, people or places. They’re only visual and don’t involve hearing things or any other sensations.

It’s important to be aware that hallucinations associated with Charles Bonnet syndrome are caused by failing eyesight. They’re not caused by a mental health problem or dementia.

People with Charles Bonnet syndrome are usually aware that the visions aren’t real, even if they’re vivid.

Always see your GP if you’re experiencing hallucinations so they can investigate the cause.

Types of hallucination

There are two main types of hallucination that people with Charles Bonnet syndrome tend to experience. They may see:

simple repeated patterns

complex images of people, objects or landscapes

Simple repeated patterns can take the form of grids, shapes or lines, which can appear in bright or vivid colours. The patterns may lay across or cover everything the person sees.

More complex hallucinations can involve people, places, animals and insects. Most people don’t see hallucinations of people they know or past events they’ve experienced.

The hallucinations aren’t usually unpleasant or threatening, but they may be slightly frightening when first experienced. The can sometimes occur out of the blue, and can last for a few minutes or several hours. They may be moving or static.

Who’s affected and why?

Charles Bonnet syndrome affects people who’ve lost most or all of their eyesight. It’s more likely to occur if vision loss affects both eyes.

According to the Macular Society, up to half of all people with macular degeneration – a gradual loss of central vision – may experience Charles Bonnet hallucinations at some time. It’s thought there are more than 100,000 cases in the UK.

People of any age can be affected by Charles Bonnet hallucinations, but they tend to occur later in life after a person starts to lose their sight. The hallucinations often begin when a person’s sight suddenly deteriorates.

The main cause of Charles Bonnet syndrome is thought to be vision loss and how the brain reacts to it. It’s not clear how loss of vision leads to hallucinations, but research is beginning to help us better understand the relationship between the eyes and the brain.

When a person starts to lose their sight, their brain doesn’t receive as much information as it used to. It’s thought the brain sometimes responds by filling in the gaps with fantasy patterns or images that it’s stored. These stored images are experienced as hallucinations.

What effect can hallucinations have?

Visual hallucinations are a normal response the brain has to the loss of vision.

However, as Charles Bonnet syndrome isn’t widely known, many people worry about what it means and fear they may be developing a serious mental illness or dementia.

It can also cause practical problems. People who see complex hallucinations may find it difficult to get around.

Streets and rooms may be distorted, and brickwork or fencing may appear directly in front of you, making it difficult to judge exactly where you are and whether you can walk straight ahead.

Some people can overcome this problem by having good knowledge of their surroundings.

Complex hallucinations can be unsettling. Although the visions may not be frightening, it can be disturbing to suddenly see strangers in your home or garden.

For most people, the hallucinations will improve over time, with episodes becoming shorter and less frequent. Recent evidence suggests most people will still have occasional hallucinations five years or more after they first started.

If the hallucinations do stop entirely, there’s always a chance they’ll reappear after a further decline in vision.

Diagnosing Charles Bonnet syndrome

There isn’t a specific test for Charles Bonnet syndrome. Doctors diagnose it by:

talking to the person about their symptoms

taking a detailed medical history

in some cases, carrying out tests to rule out other possible causes of hallucinations, such as Alzheimer’s disease

If a person has vision loss and they’re experiencing simple or complex hallucinations and they don’t have signs of dementia or mental illness, they probably have Charles Bonnet syndrome.

Treating Charles Bonnet syndrome

There’s currently no cure for Charles Bonnet syndrome.

Simply understanding that the hallucinations are a normal consequence of vision loss, rather than a mental health problem, can be very reassuring and help the person cope better.

No specific medication has been shown to stop hallucinations caused by Charles Bonnet syndrome. Some medications that are designed to treat epilepsyParkinson’s disease and dementia have proved effective for some people.

However, these powerful medications can have serious side effects, and are therefore only recommended for people who are severely affected and under close supervision.

Self-help measures

You could try some self-help measures to help relieve your hallucinations when you experience them. For example, when a hallucination starts, you could:

change the lighting conditions to see if it disappears – for example, if you’re in a dimly lit area, switch on more lights or move to somewhere that’s brighter; if in a brightly lit area, make it dimmer

move your eyes from left to right – do this once every second 15 times without moving your head, then pause for a few seconds and repeat; it’s worth trying this up to four or five times

stare at the image and blink rapidly or reach out to touch the vision – try this for a few seconds

move around or perform a task – for example, get up to make a cup of tea

make sure you’re well rested and are getting enough sleep at night – the hallucinations may be worse when you’re tired or stressed

Some people overcome their fear by getting to know the figures in their visions.

For example, one man with Charles Bonnet syndrome has described how when he wakes up in the morning, he says, “Right, what have you got in store for me today?” to the figures he’s seeing. This allows him to have some control over the way he feels about his visions.

Help and support

If you have Charles Bonnet syndrome, talking about your hallucinations and how they make you feel may help you cope better. You could try talking to your family, friends, GP, optician, or ophthalmologist.

Mental health professionals, such as counsellors, psychologists or psychiatrists, may also be able to help if you’re finding the hallucinations particularly upsetting.

Although Charles Bonnet syndrome isn’t a mental health condition, many mental health professionals have experience of helping people come to terms with hallucinations. Your GP should be able to refer you to your local mental health team.

Read more about counselling and psychotherapy.

There aren’t many specific support groups and forums for people affected by Charles Bonnet syndrome, but there are lots of support groups for people with vision loss.

The Macular Society runs a buddy service for people affected by Charles Bonnet syndrome, where they can put you in touch with someone who’s also experienced visual hallucinations for support and reassurance. Their helpline is available on 0300 30 30 111, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Esme’s Umbrella, an awareness campaign for Charles Bonnet syndrome, has a website with links to information and helpful resources for both patients and healthcare professionals.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) also has more information and advice about Charles Bonnet syndrome.