Vitreous floaters, also known as eye floaters, are spots in your vision, mainly caused by age-related changes in the eye. Although they are common, vitreous floaters can be become a disabling condition and may require removal in severe cases. Dr. Nemi at Lotus Vision serves Alpharetta and the Atlanta, Georgia area with skillfully performed, state-of-the-art laser floater removal in his boutique, comprehensive eye care practice.
How Do Vitreous Floaters Develop?
As we grow older, changes occur in the vitreous humor – the clear, jelly-like substance in the main chamber of the eye. With aging, the vitreous humor can begin to degenerate, liquefying and losing its form. Collagen fibers can collapse and bind together to form knots and clumps that cast shadows on the retina --the layer at the back of the eyeball containing light-sensitive cells that trigger nerve impulses that pass through the optic nerve to form visual images.
As aging of the eye progresses, the vitreous humor can peel away from the retina. This condition is known as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD). It is often associated with a sudden increase in eye floaters.
What Are the Symptoms of Vitreous Floaters?
Many men and women experience eye floaters with aging. Symptoms may include:
- Spots that move when you move your eyes and disappear from your visual field when you try to look at them
- Small shapes in your vision appearing as dark specks or transparent, knobby, floating strings of material
- Small strings or shapes that eventually settle or drift out of your line of vision
- Spots that are more noticeable when you are looking at a blue sky, white wall, or other plain, bright background
What Are the Causes of Eye Floaters?
Vitreous floaters may be caused by the aging process or certain conditions and diseases. Causes of eye floaters include:
Age-related changes in the eye
The jelly-like substance filling the eyeballs helps them maintain a round shape. Over time, this substance can begin to liquefy, pull away from the interior surface of the eyeball, shrink, sag, clump, and become stringy. This condition can block some of the light passing through the eye, casting shadows on the retina seen as floaters.
Inflammation of the uvea (back of the eye)
This condition is known as posterior uveitis. Inflammation at the back of the eye can cause the release of debris into the vitreous humor, which is seen as floaters. Inflammation may result from infection, inflammatory diseases, or other causes.
Bleeding of the eye
Bleeding can occur for a number of reasons, including injury, diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and blocked blood vessels. Blood cells in the vitreous humor are seen as floaters.
This can occur when the jelly-like substance filling the eyeball sags enough to tug on and tear the retina. An untreated retinal tear can lead to an accumulation of fluid behind the retina, causing retinal detachment and possible permanent vision loss.
Eye surgeries and medications
Certain medications injected into the vitreous humor can cause bubbles to form, which are seen as shadows until they are absorbed by the eye. Certain types of eye surgery may introduce silicone oil bubbles into the vitreous humor that are also seen as floaters.
Laser Floater Removal
As a board-certified eye surgeon in Alpharetta, Dr. Nemi at Lotus Vision performs minimally-invasive laser floater removal. This procedure can be performed in the doctor’s office and usually takes 20 minutes to an hour. Some patients require two treatment sessions to achieve optimal results.
Eye drops are administered to provide anesthetic and prepare your eye for treatment. A contact lens is then placed on the eye, and laser light is delivered through a specially-designed microscope. When treatment is complete, Dr. Nemi may prescribe anti-inflammatory eye drops.
Immediately after treatment, you may experience small, dark specks in your lower field of vision. These are caused by gas bubbles that form when floaters are evaporated with laser treatment. They will quickly dissolve and be reabsorbed into the vitreous humor.
In performing laser floater removal, Dr. Nemi applies nanosecond pulses of low-energy light to sever vitreous stands and evaporate or reduce floaters. The goal of this treatment is to achieve functional improvement, so you can return to your daily life without floaters interfering with your field of vision.