What are floaters, and can we draw them away?

25 October 2009

Question

What are the floaters we see in the eyeball?
And would it be possible to have a coil of thin wire in ones spectacle frames which would attract floaters to the extremities of the eye so that they would not float across the eye and be a distraction?

Answer

We posed this question to Dr. James Johnson from Vitreous Floater Solutions in Southern California...Well, floaters are actually very common. It is an age related phenomenon for the most part especially as we get in to the 40s and older. And what it is, is a clear gel in the back of the eye starts to condense and coil less and cloud over. Hence, that what the person sees will be spots and threads and shadowy clouds or cobweb type shadows which move around in the vision. Most of these floaters are considered benign, but it is worth getting a good eye examination to make sure that it's not part of something more serious such as a retinal tear or a retinal detachment. The common advice that most people are given is to just learn to live with it and hope that it will go away. Now, the traditional treatment as I said is just to learn to live with it. There is actually a surgical intervention, a surgical procedure called the vitrectomy and it involves putting small instruments inside the eye to essentially suck out the gel in its entirety and replace it with salt water. As you can imagine, it's invasive, it has complications, commonly cataract and sometimes even retinal detachment. And as far as your reader's question about putting a coil of wire, it reminds me of a Steve Martin movie called The Jerk where he did put a little handle, a little wire on some glasses and in the movie, everybody got cross-eyed. Well, that wouldn't happen, but there's nothing you can really do to distract yourself from those floaters because they are inside the eye and they're constantly there. I have an unusual situation where I have a practice entirely devoted to treating floaters and I use a laser. So I use a highly focused laser on the floater material itself and vaporize it, convert it to a gas, the gas goes away and the floaters are gone.

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