Never Say Never

Coexisting eye diseases don’t bar patients from floater procedure.

Kevin Donato likes to joke that at the printing and advertising specialty business he owns, they’ll print anything but money. That’s okay for Kevin. Money isn’t what’s most important to him. He’s more concerned about his health, especially the health of his eyes, which have been problematic since his childhood.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Kevin Donato

“I never had great eyesight,” Kevin shares. “I have astigmatism, and I had eye surgery when I was very young. There was a tendon that was pulling my right eye and causing me to be cross-eyed. That tendon had to be surgically pulled back to put my eye straight.
“I go to the eye doctor every year, and I’ve always worn glasses and contact lenses. Now, I wear a reading contact in my right eye, and a contact for distance in my left eye. I’m comfortable with that because I don’t like wearing reading glasses to read or use the computer.”
About eight months ago, Kevin began noticing a spot moving across his vision in his right eye. Initially, he thought it was the result of being overly tired and spending too much time in front of the computer. The irregularity continued, however, despite getting rest and taking breaks from the electronics.
“When a contact moves off your eye, your vision becomes blurry just for the second it’s not in place,” he describes. “That’s what this spot was like, but it lasted closer to ten seconds. My vision would be blurry, then it would be clear, then blurry again. Something went across my line of sight that caused this to happen. It went on twenty-four seven.
“I struggled with the blurry spots in my right eye because the only way I could read was with my left eye, which was my distance eye. I had to wear reading glasses again.”
Frustrated, Kevin went to his eye doctor, who told him the spot moving across his eye was an eye floater. His eye doctor recommended Kevin make an appointment with Peter J. Lowe, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Retinal Eye Care Associates who subspecializes in diseases of the retina and vitreous. She explained that Dr. Lowe uses a noninvasive procedure called laser vitreolysis to remove the eye floaters from his patients’ eyes.

Eye Floaters Explained

An eye floater is basically the debris that’s left after what Dr. Lowe calls “a vitreous detachment.”
“The vitreous is a cellophane-like lining on the inside of the eye,” he explains. “As the eye naturally ages, or after surgery, most commonly to remove cataracts, the cellophane lining will sometimes come loose. Typically, it stays in small, almost completely transparent sheets. Sometimes, however, it clumps up into larger debris fields and casts shadows against the retina.”

“I’m now able to read the computer screen, a magazine and my phone without reading glasses. And I don’t see a blurry spot running across my eye anymore.” – Kevin

Most acute floaters go away on their own, “passing uneventfully as the jelly that holds them dissolves,” adds Dr. Lowe. “So, we’re only talking about a small percentage of patients in whom the floaters are either large enough or numerous enough to create a significant visual problem.
“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. 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 relative to the individual how uneasy seeing a floater makes them.
“Often, I see patients who develop floaters after cataract surgery. They are most often very anxious or depressed thinking they are going to have to live with a large spot moving in and out of their line of sight for the rest of their lives, yet they are often the easiest to successfully treat.
“In younger patients who’ve never had any prior eye problems, 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 vitreous detachments and vitreous floaters are a normal physiologic change in the eye as it ages.”
Kevin’s initial concern regarding floaters stemmed not so much from the existence of the floater itself but the procedure that had to be done to eliminate it. When his eye doctor told him that Dr. Lowe performed a laser treatment to eliminate eye floaters, Kevin became worried by the idea of someone using a laser on his eye. As a result, he put off calling Dr. Lowe for months.
“It was in October that I was recommended to Dr. Lowe,” Kevin explains “I knew I needed to reach out to him, but I didn’t do it right away. Then in March, I was out on my boat, and I had a moment when I just had it with the floater. I couldn’t deal with it anymore. When I got back into town, I called Dr. Lowe and made an appointment.”
During their consultation, Kevin expressed his concerns about laser vitreolysis to Dr. Lowe. The retina specialist carefully explained how the procedure is performed. He noted that it takes ten to 15 minutes to complete, requires no incisions and causes no discomfort.
Dr. Lowe estimated he’s performed more than 500 of those procedures over the past five-plus years.
“I was still very nervous about it,” relates Kevin, “but Dr. Lowe took time with me. He told me how he’ll put a lens on top of my eye and have me look left and right. Then, he’ll dissolve the floater with the laser. He took an extra step and went through the entire procedure, doing everything but use the laser. That trial run made me more comfortable with the process and helped me know I could do it.”

Ideal Candidates

“Kevin had a very complex ocular history,” notes Dr. Lowe. “He’d been seen by other ophthalmologists early in his life and had surgery for strabismus, which is when the eyes aren’t perfectly aligned.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

Kevin’s eye floater is gone and his vision is now clear.

“More recently, he was having problems seeing from his right eye because it was getting cloudy. In addition to a little latent eye turn, he had a fairly large central floater obscuring the visual pathway in that eye.”
At first, Dr. Lowe wasn’t sure Kevin would be a candidate for laser vitreolysis due to his strabismus because with that, Kevin had an inherent suppression of vision in his right eye. But after performing a thorough examination and finding no other clinical problems with Kevin’s eye, Dr. Lowe proceeded with the treatment.
“Kevin had already adapted to the visual weakness he had since his youth,” observes Dr. Lowe. “Then, when the floater came along, it totally threw off the way he was seeing with two eyes. After treatment, he experienced significant visual improvement and was able to see clearly again from his right eye.
“When I first started doing laser vitreolysis, I concentrated on ideal patients, such as patients who’d developed floaters after perfect cataract surgery,” he states. “As I gained more experience, I became comfortable treating patients with other coexistent eye problems. The message now is never say never.”

Excellent Eyesight

After all was said and done, Kevin’s concerns regarding laser vitreolysis were relieved through the kind attention he received from Dr. Lowe. Thanks to the doctor, Kevin became comfortable with the steps of the procedure, and he’s glad he did. He says he couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
“The floater is gone,” Kevin raves. “My vision is nice and clear now, and I don’t have any issues. I’m very excited. The procedure was a big success, and my eyesight has been excellent ever since.
“I’m back to wearing the reading contact in my right eye and a distance contact in my left eye. I’m now able to read the computer screen, a magazine and my phone without reading glasses. And I don’t see a blurry spot running across my eye anymore. I’ve been out in the sun many times since the procedure and haven’t had any issues with my eyes.”
Kevin is proud of himself for overcoming his fear, but he gives Dr. Lowe most of the credit. He says Dr. Lowe is unlike many physicians and adds that the doctor has tremendous empathy for his patients.
“Doctors sometimes get a bad reputation because they don’t always have good bedside manners, but not Dr. Lowe,” enthuses Kevin. “His bedside manner is exceptional, and I told him that in my final follow-up appointment. That’s why I decided to go through with laser vitreolysis.
“I’m especially grateful for the time Dr. Lowe took with me to go through that dry run. With his help, I set my mind to go through the procedure. I’m very appreciative of that.”

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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