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Ask Dr. Gott 7/7
Eye floaters: Wait and see
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    DEAR DR. GOTT: My husband and I need your help. Awhile ago, my husband had surgery to correct an eyelid problem. His eyelids and eyelashes were growing backward into his eyes, causing an excessive buildup of “matter.” Following surgery, he was fine, but now he has “cobwebs” in his vision. This usually occurs when he’s looking at people or walls. Sometimes he can blink and the lines disappear; other times, it does not help at all.
    He was seen by a board-certified ophthalmologist who diagnosed him with “floaters” and said he can go blind from this condition.
    DEAR READER: Floaters are spots, strings or cobweb-like shadows that occur within the line of vision. They move as the eyes move, so, if you’re trying to look at them, they disappear. They are painless and usually harmless.
    Most people over the age of 40 will experience floaters to some degree. This is because of age-related eye shrinkage. The jelly-like substance that fills the white part of the eye starts to liquefy, pulling away from the outer layer of the eye and retina. This causes the fine fibers within to clump together, which, in turn, creates shadows over the retina. Other causes of floaters include eye trauma, cataract-surgery complications, nearsightedness, eye inflammation and diabetic retinopathy.
    In most cases, this process occurs slowly, and the fibers will eventually  settle to the bottom of the eye, out of the line of vision, and need no treatment. Rarely, it can occur rapidly, causing the fibers to pull tightly or detach. This can lead to a sudden increase in the number of floaters and may cause the sensation of flashing lights. These are symptoms of a retinal tear or detachment.
    If your husband’s symptoms worsen, he must see his ophthalmologist immediately, because even a span of a few days can lead to permanent vision loss if the retina cannot be repaired.
    To the best of my knowledge, there is only one procedure that may be able to eliminate floaters, but it is fairly risky. During the procedure, a hollow needle is used to remove the vitreous and replace it with a saltwater solution. However, there are some risky side effects, such as retinal detachment (leading to blindness) and cataracts. There is also a chance that not all the floaters will be eliminated, so this procedure is only for people who have numerous floaters that interfere severely with normal vision.
    Surgery does not appear to be an appropriate option. As I stated before, most floaters clear with time, so your husband should wait.
    If symptoms worsen, he needs to see his specialist immediately. If not, nothing needs to be done. If you wish, you can always seek a second opinion from another ophthalmologist.
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