News & Promotions

7 Tips for Your Next Eye Exam
The eye holds a unique place in medicine. Your eye doctor can see almost every part of your eye from an exterior view. Other t...

Video Education Library


Do you have floaters in your vision?

Floaters are caused by thick areas in the gel-like fluid that fills the back cavity of your eye, called the vitreous.

Many people, especially highly near-sighted people, often see some degree of floaters for a good portion of their lives. Often, these floaters are in the periphery of your vision and may only be visible in certain lighting conditions. The most frequent conditions are when you are in bright sunlight and are looking toward the clear blue sky. This I know from personal experience as I have a floater in my left eye that I most often see when swimming outdoors. Every time I turn my head to the left to breathe I see this floater moving in my peripheral vision.

This is totally harmless other than when I’m swimming in the ocean and swear that sudden object in my peripheral vision is a shark bearing down on me. Some people who have floaters are not as lucky and the floater can be very central and almost constantly annoying, especially when trying to read.

The second scenario in which floaters occur is during the normal aging process.  The vitreous gel in the back of the eye starts to shrink as we age and at some point it collapses in on itself and pulls away from the retina. This sometimes results in a sudden set of new floaters.

When that happens you need to be checked for signs of a retinal tear or detachment.  As long as your retina survives that episode without any problems, the floaters themselves may stick around for a while and can be rather annoying.  

Most people eventually adapt to the floaters; the brain learns to filter them out so you are no longer aware of them. The vitreous can also collapse more as time goes on and the dense floater you are seeing initially may move further forward and drop lower in the eye so the shadow it is casting is less intense and more in the periphery of your vision where it is much easier to ignore.

The first line of treatment for floaters has been, and still is, to live with them. Once you have your retina checked and there is nothing wrong there, the floaters themselves are harmless and will not lead to any further deterioration of your vision, which is why, if at all possible, you should just live with them. This is especially true if the floaters are new because the overwhelming majority of people with new floaters will eventually get to the point where they are no longer seeing them or at least where they are not interfering with normal daily activities.

If you have tried to wait them out and live with them but they are still interfering with your normal daily activities, you may want to consider having them treated with a laser.

This treatment relatively new and involves using a special laser to try to break down large floaters into much smaller pieces that may no longer be visible. In a recent study of the laser treatment involving 52 patients, 36 were treated with the laser (a single laser treatment session) and 16 people had a sham treatment (meaning they went through everything the treated group did but did not actually have the real treatment done).  In the people who were actually treated, 54% reported a significant improvement in the floater symptoms while 0% in the sham group reported any improvement (no placebo effect). There were no significant side effects in either group.

Some points to note in the above study:

Fifty-four percent of people treated noted a significant improvement in their floater symptoms with a single treatment. That’s clearly not anywhere near a guaranteed improvement.
Other people have noted an improvement after more than one session, bringing the total expected improvement into the 70% range, with one or more treatments.
Another point to note is that there were no significant side effects to the treatment.
Although true in this small study, it does not mean that there are no risks to the laser treatment. Although rare, there have been reports of damage to the retina, optic nerve or the lens of the eye.  

Another treatment that can be used to treat floaters is a surgical procedure called a vitrectomy. This involves surgically going inside the back of the eye and removing the vitreous. This surgical procedure carries a higher risk than the laser treatment and is not 100% effective.

In summary, this new laser treatment is a good addition to the tools to deal with significant floater problems. If you have floaters for at least six months and they are central and interfering with your normal daily activities such as reading or driving and you want to see if this laser treatment could be right for you, check with your eye doctor.

 

Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.

Stewart Family Eye Care

has been voted 

BEST VISION CARE

by the readers of The Greer Citizen

for 7 consecutive years!

older man with glasses

Ask Dr. Stewart Your Eye Care Questions

What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.