Their shadows float across the paragraphs and make reading difficult, especially when proofing text against a white or light gray background.
Annoyed, you try to focus on that big one that lazily drifts across the sentence, but it darts away as soon as you stare it down. A blink merely relocates it.
There’s no sequestering these fleeting, swirling, carefree shadows of cobwebs and chimera. They are so familiar, you’re consider giving them names, like pets that live in your eyeballs.
Are they all in your head, or just your eyes?
The are for real, and most persons aged 50 and older have a few of them, says Dr. Daniel Pierre, an ophthalmologist at the Cleveland Eye Clinic. It’s rare to find a person 70 or older who doesn’t experience eye floaters.
“They are annoying and can affect the quality of vision and life, especially if your work requires working in bright sunlight or focusing on light-colored backgrounds for extended periods of time. Unfortunately, for many of us who work with computers, that is the reality of our work environment,” Dr. Pierre says.
Eye floaters are defined as specks or strings that appear to move through a person’s field of vision but do not correspond to external objects. The specks are actually tiny pieces of debris that accumulate and float in the eye’s vitreous humor, the jellylike substance that fills the eyeball.
The lens in your eye focuses light onto the retina at the opposite side of the eyeball. The light must pass through the vitreous humor to reach the retina, and when it strikes a piece of this debris, a shadow is cast upon the retina. It is similar to having specks of dust on your digital camera’s sensor. The dust will show up as shadowy blobs on your images.
Dr. Pierre explains that the incident of floaters in our eyes increases with age because the vitreous humor contracts as we get older, causing this debris to form. In most cases, the floaters are harmless and not symptoms of a serious eye disorder.
An optometrist can diagnose the condition and rule out the injuries and diseases of the eye that can be associated with floaters. (In our next installment, Dr. Pierre will discuss those situations in which eye floaters are symptomatic of more serious issues).
Until recently, individuals whose vision or quality of life is impacted by floaters had only one medical treatment option: vitrectomy. Dr. Pierre says the procedure carries a significant risk of bleeding and infection. Many patients opted to contend with the eye floaters.
In 2017, the Cleveland Eye Clinic began offering a much safer and effective approach to eye floater removal: the latest generation of the YAG laser (YAG is simply acronym for the elements in the crystal that greatly amplifies the light).
This laser-based procedure is called vitreolysis. Dr. Pierre was the first doctor in Ohio to perform this laser-based treatment, available at the Cleveland Eye Clinic.
“We are excited to be among one of the first clinics in the United States to offer eye floater removal with the YAG laser,” says Dr. Pierre.
During the procedure, the laser emits a short burst of energy lasting only 3 nanoseconds. Instead of simply breaking down the floater into smaller pieces, the laser’s high power converts molecules within the floater to a gas, which is re-absorbed by the vitreous humor.
Patients report an almost immediate improvement in visual function and are able to return to normal activities directly following the procedure.
“Since adopting laser floater removal into our practice, I have come to appreciate the negative effect that floaters can have on a patient’s quality of life,” Dr. Pierre says. “To date, the overwhelming response from my patients has been that floaters pose a major hinderance in their daily lives.
“As clinicians, I believe we must embrace the growing need to manage eye floaters—we can no longer diminish the effect that floaters have on a patient’s quality of life,” he adds.
- Most people over the age of 50 have eye floaters;
- Eye floaters can affect your work and enjoyment of everyday activities, such as reading and driving;
- Laser floater removal uses a YAG laser to safely and painlessly break down the floaters;
- Dr. Daniel Pierre of the Cleveland Eye Clinic is accepting patients for the vitreolysis procedure, which is performed at the clinic’s Brecksville Surgery Center. Call 440-526-1974 for an appointment.