Floaters are those annoying small black spots, strands or cloud-like forms that you may have seen drifting across your field of vision. They occur when the gel-like fluid making up more than 75 percent of your eye shrinks and starts to form clumps.
Generally associated with aging, floaters are harmless, often disappearing naturally. There's no cure, but certain nutrients and vitamins for eye health may help prevent or slow the progression of several different eye conditions.
Although there are no specific vitamins for eye floater relief, research has shown that vitamins from dietary or supplemental sources have antioxidants and other properties that can improve some eye conditions and keep your eyes healthy. Some evidence shows that carotenoids and vitamins B, C and E may benefit the long-term health of your eyes.
The Role of Carotenoids
Carotenoids are converted into vitamin A in the body, which has been shown to be advantageous to eye health. The carotenoids — lutein and zeaxanthin — are found in the retina, lens and macula of your eyes. Due to their antioxidant properties, these compounds may benefit eye health by neutralizing damaging free radicals and absorbing harmful high-energy light waves, like the sun's ultraviolet rays and blue light, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
Benefits of Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Research has shown that lutein and zeaxanthin play a role in preventing eye disease, including reducing the risk of macular degeneration (AMD). The Age-Related Eye Disease Study in 2013, sponsored by the National Eye Institute, conducted a follow-up assessment to the five-year study that showed the positive effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on macular degeneration.
In the first AREDS trial, results showed the group with early signs of macular degeneration who took lutein and zeaxanthin had a 10 to 25 percent reduced risk of progression of the disease compared to the participants who consumed lower amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin.
The AREDS2 follow-up study tested the effect of modifying the original formula and found that lutein and zeaxanthin played a role in preventing AMD, but had no effect on cataracts, according to the results of the study published in Journal of the American Medical Association in 2013.
Carotenoids in the Diet
Scientific evidence, supporting the benefits of a diet rich in carotenoids in preventing the onset of eye diseases, identified lack of lutein and zeaxanthin as a dietary cause in cataract and macular degeneration-related blindness. Results from the study, published in the journal Nutrients in 2013, suggest dietary strategies as a key to management of age-related eye conditions.
The National Eye Institute recommends eating diets rich in lutein and zeaxanthin to lower your risk of developing AMD and other eye conditions that may result in floaters. Most fruits and vegetables — especially yellow and orange varieties — contain both carotenoid compounds, as do green veggies, such as spinach, kale and broccoli.
Antioxidant Value of Vitamin E
The imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body is associated with many age-related eye conditions, according to the American Optometric Association. The potent antioxidant properties of vitamin E make it an important vitamin for eye health by protecting your cells — including your eye cells — from harmful unstable molecules. Keeping your eyes healthy might help prevent floaters from forming.
A study published in the journal of Public Health Nutrition in 2015 indicated that dietary and supplemental vitamin E can delay or prevent cataract formation. The AREDS study suggested that 400 IU per day of vitamin E, taken with beta-carotene, vitamin C and zinc supplements, reduces the progression of macular degeneration by about 25 percent, according to the American Optometric Association.
Sources of Dietary Vitamin E
The recommended daily amount for vitamin E is 22.4 IU according to the NIH. Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts and seeds, vegetable and nut oils, wheat germ, avocado, sweet potato, dark leafy greens and fortified foods.
Vitamin C for Collagen
Since floaters are often the result of coagulation of the vitreous in your eye due to aging, vitamin C's role in blood and lymph circulation, waste elimination and supporting connective tissue may be of benefit. Vitamin C, an antioxidant, is required to make the protein collagen needed to provide structure to your eyes, especially the cornea and sclera.
The American Optometric Association says taking a supplement with at least 300 milligrams per day of vitamin C may help prevent cataracts. Vitamin C is found almost exclusively in fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes.
B Vitamin Deficiency and AMD
A deficiency in B vitamins may increase the risk of developing eye problems, such as macular degeneration. Researchers evaluated the association between vitamins B6, folic acid and B12 and AMD and revealed evidence that supplementation of vitamin B may help with the prevention and control of eye disease, as published in the journal Scientific Reports in 2015.
Eating foods high in vitamin B, such as meat, whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, dark green vegetables and fruits, may benefit the health of your eyes.
Keeping Your Eyes Healthy
A study published in Clinical Interventions in Aging in 2013 examined the role of nutritional intervention in treating and slowing or stopping the progression of age-related eye diseases including cataract, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and AMD, or eye damage leading to the progression of these diseases.
Recommendations from the study stressed that your diet should include food choices rich in vitamins C and E, beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, zinc and omega-3 fatty acids. A healthy range should consist of a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, lean meats, dairy and fish.
Is This an Emergency?
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Top Foods to Help Protect Your Vision"
- National Eye Institute: "Age-Related Eye Disease Study: Results"
- National Eye Institute: "What the Age-Related Eye Disease Studies Mean for You"
- American Optometric Association: "Vitamin E"
- Public Health Nutrition: "Vitamin E and Risk of Age-Related Cataract"
- JAMA: "Lutein + Zeaxanthin and Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Age-Related Macular Degeneration: the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) Randomized Clinical Trial"
- Nutrients: "Dietary Sources of Lutein and Zeaxanthin Carotenoids and Their Role in Eye Health"
- All About Vision: "Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Eye and Vision Benefits"
- National Institutes of Health: "Vitamin E"
- American Optometric Association: "Vitamin C"
- Scientific Reports: "Homocysteine and the Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: a Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis"
- Clinical Interventions in Aging: "Nutrients for the Aging Eye"