Why seniors shouldn’t ignore small vision changes

Ensuring seniors do not dismiss small vision changes and continue to get regular eye exams is important for their continued health and wellness. Small vision changes like floaters or specs that move across your field of vision are a common complaint in middle-aged and elderly people that can be indicative of other problems like Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD).

The importance of a senior eye exam

The spots that we tend to refer to as floaters or specks, occur in the vitreous humor, the clear, jelly-like substance in the main chamber of your eye located between your lens and your retina. When you’re young, the vitreous is clear. As you age, the collagen fibers of the vitreous degenerate, forming clumps which cast shadows on the retina, causing the floaters you see. As the vitreous continues to degenerate, it can pull away from the back wall of the eye, creating a Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD). A PVD is often associated with new floaters and flashes of light around the periphery of your vision. A PVD can sometimes cause tears in the retina which can lead to a retinal detachment, so you should have a dilated eye exam if you are experiencing these symptoms. Once your eye doctor has ruled out a retinal tear, the floaters, if annoying, can be addressed.

Solutions for Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD)

Historically, the only remedy for floaters was a vitrectomy, or removal of the vitreous in the operating room. The FDA recently approved the Ellex Ultra Q Reflex YAG laser for noninvasive treatment of floaters in the office setting. Unlike other YAG lasers, the Ellex Laser is optimized for this procedure, which is called Vitreolysis. Nanosecond pulses of laser light are applied to vaporize the vitreous opacities. The floater’s collagen and hyaluronin molecules are converted into a gas. In the end result, the floater is removed or reduced to a size that no longer impedes vision.

Preparing for Posterior Vitreous Detachment (PVD) treatment

In preparation for the painless, office-based procedure, a mild topical anesthetic drop will be placed on your eye. Then a contact lens will be placed on your eye to better focus the laser directly onto the floaters. During the treatment, you will likely observe bright lights and small dark shadows as the floaters are being vaporized into small gas bubbles. These gas bubbles quickly dissolve. Each treatment session typically takes 15-30 minutes. More than one treatment may be necessary to obtain satisfactory results. Following treatment, you may observe small black floaters in the lower part of your field of vision from the gas bubbles produced during the procedure. These dissolve quickly. Rare side effects include cataract and an increase in intraocular pressure.

If the symptoms of floaters are bothering you and affecting your quality of vision, we recommend scheduling an appointment for an evaluation to see if Vitreolysis may help you.

Article Provided By:
Adam AufderHeide, MD, PhD Retina Care Center