A new laser procedure to treat eye floaters is now available in southern Utah. The procedure is being performed by the Zion Eye Institute.
Jason Ahee, MD is the Executive Medical Director for Zion Eye Institute. “Eye floaters are a very common problem. They usually appear as obstructions in a persons’ vision. They typically move around but can also be stationary. While not always a serious concern, they can range from distracting and annoying to visually disabling. Our new laser procedure will be a great help for patients struggling with eye floaters,” said Dr. Ahee.
Floaters are found in the vitreous body, the clear gel that occupies most of the inside of the eye. They are caused by normal aging changes in the vitreous gel and there is no way to prevent them. Prior to this new laser procedure, the only way to remove floaters was to undergo invasive eye surgery to remove the vitreous gel and the floaters along with it. Most patient were told to just “live with it” because of the risks associated with surgery.
The procedure is quick and painless. It is performed in the office with virtually no recovery time, and it is covered by medical insurances, including Medicare. The vitreous gel is 99% water and 1% solid elements. Of the solid portion, there are collagen filaments and hyaluronic acid molecules. The ability of the solid elements to retain water molecules decreases with age, causing liquefaction of the vitreous gel. The solid elements coalesce and form condensations. These condensations may ‘float’ within the liquid vitreous giving the patient a sensation of floaters in their vision.
When the vitreous pulls on the retina – which lines the inside of the eyeball like wallpaper – the photoreceptor cells in the retina are mechanically stimulated. The retinal cells are incapable of perceiving pain, pressure, or temperature. The only stimulus that the retina responds to is ‘light’. So when the retinal photoreceptors experience mechanical stimulation because of the vitreous pull, they send a signal to the brain in the form of disorganized light, which is perceived by the brain as a ‘flash’.
With the accumulation of enough liquid vitreous, the vitreous framework collapses and the vitreous completely separates from the retina. This process is called posterior vitreous detachment which can cause large floaters but is otherwise benign.
If the vitreous pulls the retina enough to cause a retinal tear or hole, this can lead to a retinal detachment which may cause vision loss if not repaired quickly. Any time a patient experiences new onset of flashes and/or floaters, it is recommended that they see their eye doctor for a thorough examination.
Posterior vitreous detachment occurs in less than 10% people under 50 years of age but in more than 60% people who are over 70 years of age. It is more common for people who are nearsighted, who have had an eye injury, have undergone eye surgery, or have had inflammation inside the eye.
Zion Eye Institute:
1791 East 280 North
St. George, UT 84790
Zion Eye Institute – Eye Care Santa Clara, Utah
1100 Canyon View Dr. Unit G
Santa Clara, UT 84765