Introduction

Virtually every individual has experienced or will experience the visual shadows caused by vitreous strands and opacities, commonly referred to as “floaters”, during their lifetime. For most, this event is a minor and short-lived inconvenience, but for some it can become a disabling condition.

Vitreous strands and opacities are small bundles of collagen fibers located in the eye’s vitreous and are often a product of degenerative vitreous syndrome (DVS). DVS occurs when the collagen fibers which comprise the vitreous start to deteriorate and clump together. This is often a result of the normal aging process and causes the presence of vitreous strands and opacities within the normally clear vitreous cavity.

Young people and adolescents may also suffer from vitreous strands and opacities, due to embryonic remains in the vitreous, or due to trauma. Myopic patients with longer eyes can develop a detachment of the hyaloid, the “envelope” which contains the vitreous. This hyaloid may become fibrotic, resulting in shadows in the patient’s visual pathway.

Standard visual tests are unable to quantify the effect of vitreous strands and opacities on a patients’ quality of vision. While they are not sight threatening, floaters can result in significant visual disturbance. Indeed, a study by Wagle et al. found that many sufferers consider them to inflict the same degree of burden and emotional strain as Age-Related Macular Degeneration. It has been suggested that long-distance drivers and post-cataract surgery patients with multifocal IOLs suffer the most from the symptoms of vitreous strands and opacities, particularly at night when the pupil is dilated to its maximum.

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Animation: Laser Floater Removal

Laser floater removal is a simple, outpatient-based procedure, which involves the use of a nano-pulsed ophthalmic YAG laser to vaporize vitreous strands and opacities. Highly effective, it has a low complication rate and offers a high degree of patient satisfaction. It can also delay or obviate the need for surgery. Watch this animation to see how quickly – and easily –laser floater removal can be used to vaporize floaters.

Treatment Options

When floaters persist or are present at disabling levels, and depending on the degree of symptoms involved, the majority of ophthalmologists will offer one of two solutions:

  • Observation: do nothing i.e. “There is nothing to worry about, just ignore them.”
  • Vitrectomy: surgical removal of the vitreous. In addition to the surgical risks, this procedure may leave an impression of shadows across the patient’s visual pathways post-surgery.

There is also a third option: laser floater removal. Laser floater removal is a simple, outpatient-based procedure, which involves the use of a nano-pulsed ophthalmic YAG laser to vaporize vitreous strands and opacities. Highly effective, it has a low complication rate and offers a high degree of patient satisfaction. It can also delay or obviate the need for surgery.