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Floaters are most often caused by small pieces of protein that move with in the eye’s vitreous humor (the jelly - like substance behind the lens and in front of the retina ). These strands and clumps of vitreal protein cast shadows onto the retina, so that people often see dark areas of various sizes moving in the vision, especially noted against a white background. The degree of floaters often increases slowly with age and are a normal part of aging. (Sudden floaters can arise from eye problems such as bleeding from a retinal tear or detachment, so a sudden change in floaters needs to be assessed right away, and these sorts of floaters cannot be treated until the eye is otherwise stable.
When floaters have been present for 3 months or more and are significantly affecting a person’s ability to function visually, Laser Vitreolysis can often be used to break up and vaporize the floaters. Not all types of floaters can be treated with laser, and sometimes surgery in the operating room called “vitrectomy” is needed. The goal of laser treatment is to achieve functional improvement, meaning to allow patients to resume visual day-to-day activities with a reduction of symptoms. While a vitrectomy surgery can successfully remove floaters by removing the gel of the eye, this requires a visit to the operating room and has higher associated risks as compared to laser.
The laser treatment typically takes 5-10 minutes to complete at the microscope. The eye is dilated, and a contact lens is used to steady the eye during therapy. No patch or drops are generally needed. Some patients require more than one treatment session to achieve a satisfactory result. Typically, a repeat evaluation is performed at one month, and the result is assessed at that time.
Laser therapy can be quite effective in many patients, and a complete dilated examination before therapy allows us to assess the potential benefit and possible risks in the eye before therapy.
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