Eye Floaters

On occasion, we may see something fly across our vision, a flash of light, or something that suddenly appears almost overnight causing anxiety or distress. All of these could indicate an eye condition and are reasons for you to get a yearly checkup.

Most of these conditions are usually harmless but on rare occasions can signify an underlying condition. It is important to be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

What are Eye Floaters?

Most eye floaters are caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes liquefies and contracts. Scattered clumps of collagen fibers form within the vitreous and can cast tiny shadows on your retina. The shadows you see are called floaters.

What Causes Eye Floaters?

As you age, the vitreous gel loses so much of its strength and structure, that it will separate from the retina, a thin tissue lining the back wall of the eye.  When the gel detaches from the retina, people often see one or more new floaters in their vision.  The process of the gel pulling away from the back wall of the eye is called a posterior vitreous detachment and is something that will happen to everyone at some point in his or her life, most commonly after age 50-60.  This process is an age-related change, but in some cases, the retina may actually tear as the gel pulls away.  A retinal tear needs to be detected and treated very quickly since it can lead to a retinal detachment, which may cause vision loss or even blindness. Other causes may include:

  • Inflammation in the back of the eye
  • Bleeding in the eye
  • Prior eye surgery
  • Eye Medications
  • Eye Tumors
  • Diabetic Retinopathy
  • Crystal-like deposits form within the vitreous

What is the Treatment for Eye Floaters?

Using laser treatments to vaporize large symptomatic vitreous floaters and/or break them into small, less visually disabling fragments dates back to the 1980s. What was once considered an experimental alternative to surgical treatment has become mainstream with the advent of highly sophisticated laser technology in recent decades.

In today’s YAG laser vitreolysis, Dr. Hayek can precisely visualize floaters in relation to your retina and natural lens (or intraocular lens implant if you have had cataract surgery). This enables precise targeting of the laser beam to break up or vaporize floaters impairing your visual function.

Who is a Candidate for YAG Vitreolysis?

Our surgeons will perform a slit-lamp examination to directly visualize the structures in your eye. We may perform a special ultrasound study in order to assess the density of your vitreous fluid, which is a contributing factor to the formation of floaters.

A good candidate for YAG Vitreolysis will:

  • Describe troublesome floater symptoms that have persisted for at least 2 to 3 months
  • Complain of floaters affecting their ability to perform specific tasks such as reading, watching TV, or driving
  • Report that these functional visual problems have taken a serious toll on their quality of life
  • Not have serious eye conditions such as cataracts, retinal tears or detachments, or clouding of the cornea or lens that would impair visualization of the vitreous

What Happens During a YAG Vitreolysis?

YAG vitreolysis is performed in our office and, typically, you are able to go home following the procedure.

  • Numbing eye drops and, if necessary, local anesthesia is used to keep you comfortable during the procedure.
  • A special device is placed on your eye to keep it open and your doctor works using magnification lenses to visualize and target the floaters in your eye.
  • The YAG laser then precisely targets each floater that can be safely dissolved. If a floater is in a spot that’s too close to an important structure (like your retina or lens) or if the floater is particularly large or irregularly shaped, you might require more than one treatment session to effectively treat it.

You will follow up at our office a month after your procedure for a pressure check.

If you are experiencing any symptoms or have noticed any changes in your vision, it may be time to set up an appointment with one of our ophthalmologists to discuss possible treatment options and get on the path to good eye health.