What are eye floaters?
Floaters are small shapes that some patients experience floating in or moving across their field of vision. They can take on different forms that can include, amongst others; spots, rings or long narrow stands. These shapes float across your vision as you move your eye around, if you try to look at the floater(s) it will often seem like they are darting away. Many people can ignore them but for some, they become very frustrating.
Floaters are very common, which means a lot of people who experience them often learn to ignore them. Some persons may not even notice they have them until they become more prominent or numerous.
What causes eye floaters?
The vitreous (a clear and gel-like transparent structure that fills the space in the middle of the eye) liquefies as we get older and the collagen fibres that form it tend to clump together and float in the resulting fluid. These clusters of fibres or even interfaces between gel and fluid can cast shadows on your retina and which you see as the floaters. In most cases, floaters do not require treatment. However, in some cases and especially when of sudden onset, they may be a sign of posterior vitreous detachment or PVD. PVD becomes more common as we age or can appear at an earlier age in short-sighted or after cataract surgery or trauma.
Any patient who experiences a sudden onset of floaters or they become more numerous or intrusive, flashes of light or a shadow in their visual field should be examined at the earliest by an Ophthalmologist, ideally a Vitreoretinal Surgeon. Patients need to undergo a full retinal examination through dilated pupils that includes Biomicroscopy and Indirect Ophthalmoscopy with scleral indentation to rule out retinal tears or retinal detachment and the need of treatment (retinal laser retinopexy for tears or laser or surgery for retinal detachment depending, amongst others, on symptoms, surface area and location) and prevent loss of vision or blindness.
Possible treatment options
When you notice floaters in your vision, you have a few options depending on the severity.
- Do nothing
Many people find that some floaters can be easily ignored and go away gradually over time.
- See a Vitreoretinal Surgeon and undergo:
- Vitreolysis YAG laser
- Vitrectomy surgery
What is YAG LASER VITREOLYSIS for LASER FLOATER TREATMENT (LFT)?
Also known as YAG laser vitreolysis, LFT is a painless procedure that can reduce and sometimes eliminate the visual disturbance caused by floaters. The aim of the treatment is to achieve a ‘functional improvement’ and to allow the patient to return to ‘normal’ day-to-day activities without the hindrance of floaters.
What are my other treatment options?
Clinical studies have shown LFT to be effective in the majority of patients. If floaters persist, however, following a thorough examination Prof. Stanga may recommend vitrectomy surgery.
How does LFT work?
LFT involves the application of incredibly fast nanosecond pulses of laser light to vaporise the vitreous cloudiness (the floater) and to cut the vitreous strands to which they are attached and suspended. During this process, the floater’s collagen and hyaluronic molecules are converted into a gas. The end result is that the floater is removed, reduced in size or allowed to displace for the central vision.
What happens during the procedure?
At the London Vision Clinic Retina, LFT is performed by Prof. Stanga using the latest ELLEX Reflex Technology TM. Immediately prior to your treatment, eye drops will be given to dilate your pupils and numb the eye to be treated. A contact lens will then be placed on your eye, with the laser light delivered through a specially designed microscope.
During the treatment, you may see small, dark shadows – these are the floaters being evaporated into small gas bubbles. These gas bubbles quickly dissolve and resorb into the vitreous.
You can expect each treatment session to last between 20-60 minutes; most patients need to have between two to three treatment sessions. The number of sessions needed is determined by the type of floaters to be treated: less for small and well-defined floaters and more numerous for large and woolly ones.
What can I expect after treatment?
You will be initially dazzled in the treated eye and may subsequently observe small, dark specks in your lower field of vision immediately following treatment. However, these small gas bubbles will quickly dissolve and should not impede vision.
Some patients may experience mild discomfort, redness or temporarily blurred vision directly following treatment and that usually resolve within hours.
Complications and side effects
Like with all medical treatments, complications can take place though reported side effects and complications associated with LFT are rare. Side effects may include cataract and intraocular pressure (IOP) spike. Prof. Stanga will discuss with you at length risk as benefits of the treatment as part of your initial consultation and prior to you signing a full- informed consent form.