Eye floaters and depression: Are they linked?

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In this blog we will discuss if there is a link between eye floaters and depression. 

We will also briefly touch upon what eye floaters are, when you should see a doctor for your eye floaters, possible treatments available for it, as well as what you can do if you suspect yourself to have depression. 

Eye floaters and depression: Are they linked?

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There is no conclusive evidence that eye floaters cause depression nor evidence that depression causes eye floaters. 

Eye floaters and mental health conditions like depression are linked however, it has to be mentioned that there is no conclusive evidence that the connection between them is one of cause and effect. 

Eye floaters are small, particle-like objects that seem to float in one’s vision and these particles are not external particles but rather come from the vitreous gel from the back of our eye ball that become liquified over time and it is commonly reported as many different shapes and sizes. 

These floaters are often perceived when the individual is looking at a monochromatic background like the blue sky or a white wall and tend to appear as shapes in the form of threads, lines, dots and blotches. 

In a study that evaluated the presence of psychological distress in people who have experienced eye floaters, found that there is some notable link between anxiety, stress, and the presence of eye floaters. 

The researchers also assessed the levels of depression, stress, state, and trait anxiety through self report questionnaires. The results of the assessments found that participants with Symptomatic vitreous floaters showed higher levels of psychological distress compared to the people who do not have this condition. 

It was also observed that people with severe eye floaters reported higher depression, perceived stress, and state and anxiety compared to other groups that had milder floater distress and symptoms. 

While this study did highlight that there seems to be a link between eye floaters and depression, the study does not explore any possible causal relationship between the two. 

This means that while there are studies that show that people with eye floaters have been recorded to have psychological distress such as anxiety and stress, research does not clarify if eye floaters cause these psychological problems or whether these psychological problems cause eye floaters. 

This is due to a lack of strong evidence based on clinical research and studies that can lead us to understand the cause and effect relationships between anxiety and eye floaters.   

The researchers concluded that there needs to be more research done in terms of the relationship between the two issues of depression and eye floaters to understand what direction the relationship follows. 

What are Eye Floaters?

Eye floaters are detached parts of the vitreous gel from the back of our eye ball that become liquified over time and it is commonly reported as many different shapes and sizes. 

Some people perceive it as tiny black specs, or like clouds, or like seeing a bug flying around their vision, or as small circles or lines in their vision.

These floaters are often perceived when the individual is looking at a monochromatic background like the blue sky or a white wall.

Eye floaters and depression: Are they linked?

What causes Eye floaters?

Eye floaters are not external particles but rather they come from inside the eye particularly from the back of the eye. 

In the back of the eye there is a structure called the  vitreous gel. This gel structure loses it;s structure and strengths as it liquifies over time as we age 

When this liquefaction occurs, the structure separates from the retina in strands and clumps and the shadows of these fibres are projected on the retina, leading to floaters in your vision.

This process of separation of the structure from the back of the eyeball is called posterior vitreous detachment and occurs all throughout our lives and most common when we reach the age of 50-60.

While these floaters can be irritating, they are harmless. However if you notice that these floaters are obstructing your vision or causing light flashes in your vision. You must seek out medical help to treat it. 

When should you see your doctor for eye floaters?

You should see your eye doctor as soon as possible if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Large floaters or “showers” of floaters that come into view. 
  • Floaters that appear suddenly and obstruct your vision or view
  • Sudden flashes of light that also persist.
  • Loss of your side/peripheral vision in a way that it feels like something is blocking your view. 

Things you can generally do to live with floaters, provided that they are not life limiting include the following:

  • Learn to adapt because most of the time floaters tend to be small in size and not cause much problems in terms of vision. So learning how to adapt and ignore them could be one way. 
  • Avoid bright lights and white walls and limit your time spent on screens and computers. 
  • Engage in routines that allow you to destress the area around your eye with a massage or an eye mask that is soothing. 
  • Get a good amount of sleep and rest so that it deals with underlying stress as well as the strain around your eyes. 

What to do if you have depression?

Mental health is a crucial part of a person’s life as any disruption in their mental well-being can impact their daily lives, their relationships with other people, and also their occupational progress as well. 

Interestingly, this relationship between mental health and the various factors such as relationships, jobs, day to day activities is bi-directional meaning that such factors can be affected by our mental health and at the same time, these factors can affect our mental health. 

A few things that we can do on an individual’s level to manage and maintain our mental health include:

Seek out therapeutic care

Engaging with a therapist, being diligent with your medication, and making the changes you need to make to get better will determine your prognosis.

If the cost of therapy is becoming a burden consider talking to your therapist for a sliding scale option or the possibility of a pro bono case, and if that is not possible ask your therapist to refer you to someone who can take on your case at a much lower rate or for free. 

Your therapist will help you understand what is happening to you, might prescribe you medication if needed, and can help you tap into your own strengths that can help you adapt to challenges, changes, and overcome them.

Join a support group

Another thing you can do for yourself is to join a support group of people struggling with depression so that you can experience emotional support first hand within these communities and over time learn how to manage your challenges by learning from each other. 

It is possible that people with depression can also struggle with a sense of worthlessness, a feeling that you have nothing of value to offer. By joining a group that is open, empathetic, and growing towards healing, you and your experiences can be an excellent sense of support to someone else who is also in their early part of their journey. 

Actively seek positive experiences

According to positive psychology research, positive feelings are an important aspect of well-being. For a person to engage in activities and other experiences that help them feel positive feelings such as love, belongingness, achievement, and a sense of hope is important.

This could be as simple as watching a movie, petting your cat, taking your dog for a walk, eating ice cream. Do what makes you happy without judging yourself for these choices.

Spend time with loved ones

Once you feel like you are up for it, take time to seek out support from your friends, family, and loved ones. Positive relationships are also important for wellbeing. 

Talk to them about how you are feeling- let them know that you feel alone or lonely. Let them provide you company when you do not want to be alone- take effort to reach out to them. 

Allow yourself to feel loved by people who genuinely care for you and seek out new meaning from these positive and healthy relationships. 

Focus on resting and recovering

Take time to eat well, rest well, exercise, give time to yourself to think and engage in things you used to like doing before you started working- be it reading comics, or playing video games, or walking your pet.

Take effort to engage in things that you love doing, explore new activities if you feel like it and explore the world around you. 

Conclusion

In this blog we discussed if there is a link between eye floaters and depression. 

We have also briefly touched upon what eye floaters are, when you should see a doctor for your eye floaters, possible treatments available for it, as well as what you can do if you suspect yourself to have depression. 

FAQ related to Eye floaters and depression: Are they linked?

Can depression cause eye floaters?

It is possible however, research shows that there is no clear answer as to whether depression causes eye floaters.

Eye floaters and mental health conditions like depression are linked however, it has to be mentioned that there is no conclusive evidence that the connection between them is one of cause and effect.

Are floaters from anxiety?

It is possible however, research shows that there is no clear answer as to whether anxiety causes eye floaters. 

Is it normal to have eye floaters at 25?

It is normal for one to experience eye floaters at the age of 25 if you are under a lot of strain- mental and physical- and if you have eyesight conditions. 

Floaters are quite common in people and it generally starts when people are moving into their 20s and 30s and even more so common for people with short-sightedness, also known as myopia.

Can floaters be psychological?

It is possible that psychological stress worsens eye floaters since studies have shown that psychological distress is more common among those with eye floaters however, researchers are not certain that eye floaters are caused by psychological conditions. 

References

Eye Floaters and Flashes. Milan Eye centre. Retrieved on 15th April 2022. https://www.milaneyecenter.com/eye-conditions/floaters-flashes/

Kim YK, Moon SY, Yim KM, Seong SJ, Hwang JY, Park SP. Psychological Distress in Patients with Symptomatic Vitreous Floaters. J Ophthalmol. 2017;2017:3191576. doi:10.1155/2017/3191576

Kim. E.S. How to live with severe eye floaters. Patient. Retrieved on 15th April 2022 https://patient.info/news-and-features/how-to-get-rid-of-eye-floaters

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