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Vitreolysis: Start Improving Your Sight in 20 Minutes

Nov 30, 2016 02:00PM ● By Cate Reynolds
By Lisa J. Gotto

When you consider all the things our eyes are tasked to do in any given day—examine, review, skim, and read—it’s no wonder by the end of the day we are rubbing them, medicating them, and struggling to re-focus them. Sometimes, as we age, our eyes even play tricks on us by casting small shadows, or blobs, commonly known as floaters that appear briefly in our vision and then seemingly float away.

According to the National Eye Institute, floaters are little “cobwebs” or specks that float about in your field of vision. They are small, dark, shadowy shapes that can look like spots, thread-like strands, or squiggly lines. They move as your eyes move and seem to dart away when you try to look at them directly. They do not follow your eye movements precisely, and usually drift when your eyes stop moving.

While for most people these instances end up being little more than an occasional nuisance, in some cases, the floaters become more of a regular occurrence and even a distraction.

Dr. Prisca Diala, a Medical Retina/Vitreolysis Specialist at Chesapeake Eye Care & Laser Center of Annapolis says there are four reasons to be more concerned and consult a physician about this condition:
  1. If the floaters begin to block your vision
  2. If they interfere with your normal, daily activities
  3. If they become distracting
  4. If they become numerous and last for more than six months

In more serious cases floaters can be indicative of an infection, inflammation, a hemorrhage, a retinal tear, or be the result of an injury to the eye. Floaters are especially concerning if they come on suddenly or you are experiencing sudden flashes of light. These indications require immediate medical attention. A retinal tear resulting in detachment can lead to blindness, for instance.

Once these more serious conditions are ruled out, however, there is good news. There is now a minimally invasive procedure that significantly decreases the number and severity of floaters. Prior to this innovation, eye surgeons could do little to counteract mild cases of the condition (people just learned to live with them) and in extreme cases needed to employ a surgical procedure called a Vitrectomy.

Are You Susceptible to Floaters?

  • *Yes, if you are between the ages of 41 and 60
  • Are very nearsighted
  • Have diabetes
  • Have had cataract surgery
*according to the American Optometric Association

The interior of our eyes is filled with a watery gel that helps them maintain their round shape. It is within this gel that floaters form. A Vitrectomy removes this gel and any debris, or floaters, that it contains, and replaces the gel with a salt solution. While this substitution is generally well tolerated, the operation poses significant risks due to possible complications, which include retinal detachment and tears, leaving surgeons recommending the procedure only for individuals with profound impairment.

Diala, who performs the new painless procedure, Vitreolysis, explains that nanosecond pulses of laser light are used to evaporate the vitreous opacities, or floaters, and sever the vitreous strands. During this process, the floater’s collagen and hyaluronic molecules are converted into a gas. As a result, the floater is removed and/or reduced in size so that it no longer interferes with vision.

Patients are administered eye drops that contain a mild anesthesia prior to the procedure and it is performed in a surgical center with patients going home the same day. During the procedure a contact lens will be placed on your eye, with the laser light delivered through a specially designed microscope.


The Vitreolysis procedure requires no pre-operative prep, dietary restrictions, eye drops, or medical clearance from a primary care provider. It is covered by most medical insurance plans, including Medicare. It is, however, subject to co-pays, deductibles, and co-insurance.


Day of Treatment

Depending on the severity of your floaters, your treatment session can last anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes.

“During treatment, you will likely observe small, dark specks or shadows—signaling that the floaters are being evaporated into small gas bubbles,” Diala explains. The gas bubbles quickly dissolve and are then reabsorbed into the vitreous.

For most patients, one or two additional treatment sessions, may be required in order to achieve satisfactory results. After treatment, patients can expect to observe small, dark specks in their lower field of vision, but these small gas bubbles are reported to dissolve quickly.

Some patients may experience mild discomfort, redness, or temporarily blurred vision directly following treatment; however, most patients report little or no discomfort and regain full use of their vision within 24 hours, once dilation wears off and the gas bubbles have dissolved.

The word from patients has been very positive. “Patients are saying it’s life-changing,” Diala adds. “One patient in particular said that she had given up reading for pleasure as her floaters had become too distracting. She even tried to look around the floaters, but that did not work. After her laser floater treatment with Vitreolysis she is able to read again.”

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