Can Dry Eyes Cause Floaters?

An older woman rubbing her eyes and closing her eyes due to dry eye pain

You may notice little floaters in your vision at times, but typically these are nothing that should worry you. However, if you are concerned about floaters in your eye and they’re causing vision issues, it’s not a bad idea to get them checked, especially if there is a sudden excessive amount.

At the same time, you’re noticing new floaters, maybe you’re experiencing dry eyes. And you’re wondering if these two irritating eye conditions are related or cause each other. No evidence links them together. However, they share some common risk factors, which we will look at below.

Different Eye Conditions

Let’s look at each of these eye conditions, their causes, and risk factors.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Many Canadians suffer from dry eye syndrome, also known as dry eyes or simply dry eye. Whether seasonal or persistent throughout the year, there are many different causes, such as allergies, digital eye strain, smoking, or improperly fitting contacts.

Common symptoms you may experience with dry eyes are:

  • Itchy, burning, and watery eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Abnormal discomfort while wearing contact lenses
  • Light sensitivity
  • Mucus strings in eyes

Floaters

Vitreous fills your eyes—a gel-like fluid filled with fibres that attach to your retina. Sometimes these fibres clump together and cause shadows to appear on your retina. This manifests in your vision as tiny dark splotches floating around.

One of the main causes of floaters is age. However, several other things can cause them:

Shared Risk Factors

Even though many people may experience both of these conditions together, they do not cause each other. One possible reason that they often happen at the same time is that they do share several risk factors.

Shared risk factors of dry eyes and floaters are:

  • Age
  • Eye injuries
  • Previous eye surgeries
  • Underlying health conditions like diabetes
  • Extreme nearsightedness (myopia)
A woman preparing her eyes to put eye drops in

Treatment for Dry Eyes

Because a lack of or inadequate tear production is the main reason for dry eyes, it’s the primary focus of treatment. This could be increasing tear production, getting a better quality of tears that don’t evaporate quickly, or reducing eye inflammation.

These are a few possible dry eye treatment options your optometrist may suggest:

  • Eye drops: Eye drops or artificial tears are one of the most common treatments for mild dry eye symptoms. There are many options available over-the-counter (OTC) without a prescription. If you need to use them constantly, finding a preservative-free option is a good idea. Severe and persistent symptoms may require a more potent prescription eye drop.
  • Tear duct blocking: There are temporary and permanent options for blocking the tear ducts. A temporary block would be tiny plugs in the tear ducts, where the permanent option requires surgery. This treatment aims to prevent tears from draining out of your eyes too quickly, which leaves the eyes dry and irritated.
  • Dietary supplements: Adding certain things into your diet like omega-3 fatty acids have been known to improve dry eye symptoms. The optometrist may recommend a supplement if you can’t change your diet.
  • Reducing inflammation: There are several ways to reduce inflammation like special eye drops, eyelid massages, meibomian gland expression, and warm compresses. 
  • Intense Pulsed Light (IPL): IPL is available in some optometrist offices. Essentially, they use intense pulses of light that stimulate the meibomian glands. These glands are responsible for secreting oil that coats the eye and helps prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly.

Treatment for Floaters

Treating floaters in your vision is slightly less straightforward than treating dry eyes. For example, if another eye condition is the root of the floaters, treatment for that condition is the first step.

Floaters often do not interfere with a person’s daily activities. If age is the cause, nothing really needs to be done. However, if they begin making day-to-day life difficult, there is a surgical option called a vitrectomy.

During a vitrectomy, the eye doctor makes a small incision in the eye wall. Then they use a small suction tool to suck out most of the vitreous. The procedure involves minimal discomfort because the eye doctor uses numbing eye drops or a local anesthetic. This procedure can also be used in treating other conditions like diabetic retinopathy or retinal detachment.

Talk to a Doctor About Dry Eyes

In most cases, you have nothing to worry about. However, if floaters severely affect your vision or dry eyes are causing you extreme discomfort daily. Call our office today, and our helpful staff is happy to discuss your options with you.

Written by Dr. David White

More Articles by Dr. David White