For many years, eye floaters have been considered a normal side effect of aging, and thus have not been considered a medical concern warranting treatment. Previously, surgical intervention was necessary only in severe cases, such as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), where the vitreous detaches from the retina.
Additionally, treatment of eye floaters has historically carried a high risk of complication, including retinal detachment, cataract development, bleeding, and infection.
Fortunately, laser vitreolysis/laser floater removal and vitrectomy treatments to remove eye floaters have improved in recent years, and are safer and more effective than ever before.
Advances in Vitrectomy
Vitrectomy surgery, the removal of the central vitreous, has improved greatly in recent years with the use of smaller instruments. These smaller surgical instruments are able to enter the eye through needle-sized openings. These incisions decrease recovery time as the size of the wound does not warrant stitches or sutures, which significantly reduces the possibility of infection.
In the past, patients might expect a full recovery to take several months, but with current technology, the recovery is much shorter. During a three-to-five day period, the patient will wear a patch over the eye, and in most cases, the patient can resume normal activities, including driving and returning to work. Patients will generally need to use eye drops for up to a month post-operatively. Because each patient is different, each case is also different. Should you and your doctor elect to treat eye floaters with a vitrectomy, your doctor may provide you with other instructions and information that is unique to your treatment.
Due to the ease of the procedure, vitrectomies can be performed in an outpatient clinic, and typically take less than 20 minutes.
In spite of these surgical advances, the risks of vitrectomy still include cataract progression, retinal detachment, and occasionally, infection. However, this surgery may be the best treatment option for patients who have already undergone cataract surgery.
Advances in Laser Vitreolysis
YAG laser treatment, or laser vitreolysis, was introduced in 1983 and has been widely used as a relatively low-risk procedure for treating eye floaters. In this procedure, a doctor uses the laser to vaporize and break apart large floaters.
This procedure is quick and minimally invasive, but a common complaint among patients and doctors is that the procedure often does not entirely eliminate floaters in one session, and may require more than one treatment to completely resolve the floater. Laser treatment has been particularly helpful in breaking apart large floaters into smaller pieces that have a less debilitating effect on vision.
When choosing a treatment for eye floaters, whether it be laser vitreolysis, vitrectomy, or no treatment at all, patients and doctors should communicate about the potential risks and complications in order to set reasonable expectations. Whether your floaters are an everyday annoyance or significantly impacting your quality of life, there are safe options that you can discuss with your doctor when taking the next step to clear vision.