Shady Vision

Painless procedure vaporizes obstructive floaters.

Last fall, Rick Tufano visited his eye surgeon to have his cataracts removed. Once that was done, he thought he was good to go with his vision. Not so. A few months after surgery, while he was driving, a large, white spot slowly moved across his left eye. He knew the spot was an eye floater because he’d had them in the past.

Rick Tufano received laser treatment for a vitreous floater from Dr. Peter Lowe at Retinal Eye Care Associates in Lake Worth.

Rick Tufano

“I’ve had floaters all my life, and they’re mostly just small, annoying specks in my vision,” Rick shares. “But this one was like an opaque window shade floating across my iris. For about a second, which is a long time when you’re driving, I couldn’t see out of my left eye. There was a pickup truck turning the corner on my left. My wife saw it, but I didn’t. That woke me up that this floater was not just annoying, it was dangerous.”

For advice, Rick returned to his cataract surgeon, who recommended he visit Peter J. Lowe, MD, a board-certified ophthalmologist at Retinal Eye Care Associates who subspecializes in diseases of the retina and vitreous. Dr. Lowe uses a noninvasive procedure called laser vitreolysis to remove eye floaters from his patients’ eyes.

An eye floater is essentially 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,” Dr. Lowe describes. “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. Those are eye floaters.”

During Rick’s consultation appointment, Dr. Lowe answered all of Rick’s questions and was honest with him about the procedure and its potential outcomes. This made a positive impression on the retired attorney.

“My wife and I both really liked Dr. Lowe,” Rick states. “He was a straight shooter. He tells it like it is, and he didn’t make promises. He explained every step of the procedure. When he was done, I felt comfortable with him using a laser to vaporize my floater.

“The vitreolysis procedure was similar to laser cataract surgery in that Dr. Lowe viewed my eye through a machine. He dilated my pupil so he could see the entire inside of my eyeball. He also put a lens over my eye so he could magnify the floaters.

“I didn’t feel anything during the procedure, but I could hear the machine clicking when Dr. Lowe pulled the trigger on the laser.”

Not to Worry

Vitreolysis takes ten to 15 minutes to complete, requires no incisions and causes no discomfort. Dr. Lowe estimates he has performed more than a thousand such procedures over the past six-plus years.

It can take more than one procedure to completely vaporize an eye floater. Rick’s treatment began in January. He underwent two procedures performed two weeks apart, and the result, was a significant improvement in his vision .

“The procedures greatly reduced the size of the floater in my left eye,” Rick confirms. “I’d say Dr. Lowe cut it by two-thirds. He said I will have to wait before he can determine if I need a third treatment. While I still have some small floaters in front of my eye, it’s just annoying and no longer dangerous.”

When Dr. Lowe began performing the floater vaporization procedure, he did not consider patients with coexistent eye disease, such as macular degeneration and epiretinal membranes, or those with intraocular lens implants, to be candidates. As he gained more experience, however, he became comfortable treating these patients.

“At first, I didn’t want to treat patients with coexistent disease because I was concerned the laser might have an effect on or influence the course of the existing disease,” Dr. Lowe explains. “But with time and experience, I realized that people who have had previous eye surgery fared as well as those who had not.

“I have not experienced any of the complications that patients have been most concerned about. As a result, I am able to perform this procedure on any patient whose floaters obstruct their field of vision.”

Rick was one of those patients with a coexistent condition. In addition to his disabling floater, he also had an epiretinal membrane, or scar tissue, in the macula of his left eye. With the technology and expertise Dr. Lowe now possesses, that didn’t disqualify Rick as a candidate for vitreolysis.

Many people with floaters expect their vision will be perfect following cataract surgery, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes, cataract surgeons unaware of the visual disabling effects of floaters tell their patients they will just go away on their own. When that doesn’t happen, some become dissatisfied with the premium, multifocal replacement lenses they chose to have implanted during cataract surgery.

“Instead of seeing more clearly, these patients see their floaters more distinctly because they have very high-resolution lenses in their eyes,” Dr. Lowe informs. “The multifocal lenses actually make floaters more disturbing because patients can now see them in all ranges of vision – near, intermediate and distant. With standard monofocal lenses, which correct for one range of vision only, the floaters can be disturbing as well.

“But we can make patients with any style of lenses happier with their choices by eliminating their annoying floaters with vitreolysis.”

Absolute Success

For now, Rick is waiting to see how his vision responds to the two treatments he has received. If he is not completely satisfied Dr. Lowe has offered to perform a third treatment to treat what remains of the small vitreous floaters to ultimately satisfy the patients visual concerns. Still Rick is very pleased in the improvement in his vision.

“Mine was a pretty severe case,” he notes, “but the floater went from a complete window shade to a clear, plastic window wiper that occasionally floats across my field of vision. It’s irritating, but it doesn’t obstruct ninety-eight percent of my vision like before.

“My treatment at Retinal Eye Care Associates was absolutely successful. I went from being afraid of crashing to just being mildly annoyed.

“Vitreolysis was a great procedure for me. There were no after effects, no soreness or loss of vision. I’m hoping it will turn out to be one hundred percent effective in getting rid of the portion that’s still floating around. I absolutely recommend
Dr. Lowe’s vitreolysis to others. It’s well worth it if they’ve got floaters that are obstructing their vision.”

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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