Goodbye Floaters

Vitreolysis makes irritating eye debris vanish.

To William Mee, it looked like an insect scurrying across his floor or the fly from the horror movie The Ring that buzzed across the static on a television screen.

Photo by Jordan Pysz.

William can once again drive without distractions.

In reality, William was among millions of people plagued by an irksome eye floater, which can show up as a fleck, cloud-like spot, dot or cobweb darting in and out of the field of vision.
William was fortunate that the chronic floater in his left eye didn’t affect his distance sight or hamper him while he drove.
“But it was definitely annoying for close-up stuff because I’m of a generation where I do quite a bit of reading,” shares William, who enjoys a wide range of fiction and nonfiction books, including legal thrillers, adventure stories, biographies and histories. “It’s better than just watching television.”
The floater also vexed him when he used his computer. William sought a solution from a local ophthalmology practice but “received the disappointing conclusion that nothing could be done about this; just put up, shut up, live with it,” he recounts. “At that point, I gave up on it.”
Then he read an article in Florida Health Care News about Peter J. Lowe, MD, of Retinal Eye Care Associates, and how he makes floaters disappear without surgery. The board-certified ophthalmologist uses laser vitreolysis, which is noninvasive, requires no incisions and causes no discomfort. He estimates he’s performed more than 500 of those ten- to 15-minute procedures over the past five-plus years.
William made an appointment with Dr. Lowe at his Delray Beach office last August and underwent extensive testing to check for any retinal vascular diseases, such as macular degeneration, or any retinal tears or detachments.
“Mr. Mee was a relatively unhappy patient when we first saw him in August 2017,” Dr. Lowe reports. “He’s a young, active, sixty-five-year-old man who was having a lot of difficulty seeing out of both eyes, which were otherwise healthy, because of the cloudy vitreous in his left eye. The floater had come on slowly, but then after a while encompassed the entire field of vision of his left eye.
“Mr. Mee was living in a cloudy world even on a sunny day,” Dr. Lowe continues. “When you’re outside in the sun, your pupil constricts, which lets less light into the eye, and if you have a dense enough floater, it can certainly create a visual obstruction. When a floater lets less light into the eye, you can still see things, but they look duller. And then as the floater moves back and forth, sometimes you get clear vision and then the floater comes through your field of vision, and it gets worse. So that’s what he was dealing with, and that’s what ultimately made him come to see us.”

Casting Shadows on the Retina

An eye floater is the debris left after what Dr. Lowe calls “a vitreous detachment.”
“The vitreous is a cellophane-like lining on the inside of the eye,” he educates. “As the eye naturally ages, or after surgery, most commonly to remove cataracts, the cellophane lining will sometimes come loose. Occasionally, it stays in small, almost completely transparent sheets. Sometimes, however, it clumps up into larger debris fields and casts shadows against the retina.
“If you’ve spent a great deal of time and money on cataract surgery to attain excellent vision, then suddenly something’s in your eye, your first thought is something’s happened to your cataract surgery and/or you’re going blind from a problem previously undiagnosed,” Dr. Lowe expounds. “So those people often come in mortified of floaters.
“In a younger person who’s never had surgery, they often demonstrate even more of what you’d call ‘white-knuckle syndrome.’ They’ve looked up floaters or visual blurring on the internet, and they’ve read about everything from retinal detachment to hemorrhages. Everybody always expects the worst to come out of a doctor’s mouth. So, they’re often surprised that floaters are a normal physiologic change to the eye.”
Most acute floaters go away on their own, “passing uneventfully as the jelly that holds them disintegrates, and the floaters tend to move up toward the bottom of the eye,” Dr. Lowe informs. “So, we’re only talking about a small percentage of patients in which what’s floating gets stuck in the vitreous jelly or is large enough to present a significant obstruction.
“No one can really point to any given patient and say floaters will be a problem for that person, nor can anyone point to any individual floater and suggest that it’s going to be a problem as time goes on,” he comments. “Floaters come in different sizes and shapes, and different people have different levels of concern. A floater is not a disease. I tell people it’s a dis-ease. So, it’s often relative to the individual how uneasy seeing a floater makes them.”
In the past, those with persistent, bothersome floaters were told the best option was to do nothing. That’s because not all ophthalmologists perform laser vitreolysis, and the only other effective alternative is a vitrectomy, a surgery to remove some or all of the vitreous jelly which fills the space between the lens and the retina. The procedure carries the risk of infection, retinal detachment, lens damage and other complications.
“My patients have told me how they’ve tried all kinds of oral medications, eye drops or other so-called remedies that promise results but don’t deliver,” Dr. Lowe continues. “Some of the lasers that were used previously didn’t vaporize the floaters but merely fragmented them, leaving more floaters rather than providing a cure.”

After Vitreolysis, Vision Restored

William traveled to Dr. Lowe’s Lake Worth location, where the Ellex Ultra Q Reflex laser he uses is located. After William’s eye was anesthetized with just a drop of topical anesthesia, Dr. Lowe’s precision laser converted William’s loose tissue into harmless gas bubbles, which dissolved into the fluid of his eye.
“It gradually just disappeared,” William marvels. “You could still see a faint outline or something floating in there, but basically after about a month and a half or two months, it was pretty much gone. I was pleased with that. And my vision in my left eye actually improved, so it was like a double bonus.
“All in all, it was a beneficial experience, and I would recommend it to anybody who’s annoyed by floaters.”
William was so pleased with Dr. Lowe and his staff, describing them as “very attentive and very personable,” that he plans to return to Retinal Eye Care Associates for a laser treatment on his right eye.
“No sooner did I get my left eye treated than the same thing showed up in my right,” he notes. “I had Dr. Lowe look at it, and he said, It’s in a perfect location. We can take care of that one for you, too.”

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    • Retinal Eye Care Associates

      At Retinal Eye Care Associates, they strive to provide the "best eye care in the county." To achieve this goal, Dr. Lowe and his staff actively participate in continuing medical education to remain clinically up-to-date. Additionally, the prac... Read More

    • Peter J. Lowe, MD

      Peter J. Lowe, MD, is a board-certified ophthalmologist who specializes in retinal and vitreous disease. After completing his undergraduate degree at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, he received his medical degree from Chicago Medic... Read More