HEALTH & WELLNESS Middle Age Maladies  >  Getting Rid Of Eye Floaters

Getting Rid Of Eye Floaters

Getting Rid Of Eye Floaters
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BY KITT WALSH

I’ve got a friend who suddenly believes in miracles. Dave is a 58-year-old road salesman who had cataract surgery and suddenly couldn’t see to drive or enter his orders on the computer and who feared his life from then on would be totally restricted.

The problem was “floaters,” little string-like particles that float over the field of vision. What they really are is an image formed by a deposit of protein drifting about in the vitreous, the clear, jelly-like substance that fills the middle of the eye. The floaters are a result of debris from the vitreous casting a shadow on the retina and though usually benign, but can cause trouble with your vision.

What’s Up with Floaters

As we age, the vitreous and its millions of fine collagen fibers shrink and shred. Shreds can accumulate in the vitreous. This can cause a change in the amount of light that hits the retina—the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye. This change causes the symptoms of eye floaters.

These changes most often occur between ages 50 and 75, especially in people who are very nearsighted or, like Dave, have had cataract surgery. Less commonly, eye floaters can result from other eye surgery or eye disease or injury, diabetic retinopathy or some foreign object in the eye. Some floaters are just minimally annoying, but some, as in Dave’s case, the floaters can grow progressively worse.

Can It Be Cured?

After being told by several doctors that there was nothing that could be done to alleviate his condition, Dave was finally referred to an ophthalmologist at a retina center. The ophthalmologist had been trained at Johns Hopkins to perform a procedure known as a Micro-Incisional Pars Plana Vitrectomy. After several hours of testing, an incision was made with a small gauge vitreous cutter and the floaters were removed, never to return.

“It’s not too strong to use the word ‘miracle’ to describe my experience,” says Dave. “After a quick and painless outpatient surgery, my eye was bandaged overnight. When the bandage was removed, the floaters were gone! The same happened when we did my other eye. I almost couldn’t believe it.”

The floaters may either be a result of aging, wherein the jelly inside the eye condenses over time, or caused by the vibrational forces used in the removal of cataracts—like egg whites being whipped with a beater. The floaters may have existed before but become more noticeable after cataract surgery.

It’s a Miracle

The procedure, done as an outpatient procedure in a surgical center, takes about as long as cataract surgery and holds the same amount of risk. It is, however, painless (no stiches required) and is covered by most insurance.

In Dave’s case, the procedure was positively life changing and he asked my help in telling people, particularly those over 50 years old (as they are the most likely to develop floaters, with or without having undergone cataract surgery) that the problem of floaters and the loss of vision they sometimes cause has a surgical remedy.

“I felt I must let other people know, who might be suffering as I was, that there is hope,” says Dave. “I can see again and that truly does feel like a miracle.”

 No Need to Suffer

If your floaters are bothering you or growing worse, make an appointment with a licensed ophthalmologist to discuss the problem. If that ophthalmologist is unable to perform the surgery, ask for a referral to an ophthalmologic surgeon or retinal center. If the doctor instead says there is nothing to be done, seek a second opinion.

There is no need for your quality of life to suffer so severely for a correctable condition. Just look at Dave. He’s thrilled to be able to look back at you.

For more information on Micro-Incisional Pars Plana Vitrectomy or to find a retinal surgeon, visit http://www.asrs.org.

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