What is vitreolysis?
Also known as floater laser treatment, vitreolysis is a non-invasive, pain-free procedure that can eliminate the visual disturbance caused by floaters. The goal of vitreolysis is to achieve a “functional improvement”. That is, to allow you to return to “normal” day-to-day activities without the hindrance of floaters.
How does vitreolysis work?
Vitreolysis involves the application of nanosecond pulses of laser light to evaporate the vitreous opacities and to sever the vitreous strands. During this process, the floater’s collagen and hyaluronin molecules are converted into a gas. The end result is that the floater is removed and/or reduced to a size that no longer impedes vision.
What happens during the procedure?
Vitreolysis is performed as an outpatient procedure; you do not have to stay overnight in a hospital. Immediately prior to treatment, your ophthalmologist will administer eye drops to provide mild anesthesia. A contact lens will then placed on your eye, with the laser light delivered through a specially designed microscope.
During treatment, you will likely observe small, dark specks/shadows – signaling that the floaters are being evaporated into small gas bubbles. These gas bubbles quickly dissolve and resorb into the vitreous.
Once the treatment is complete, your Ophthalmologist may treat your eyes with anti-inflammatory drops.
Each treatment session typically takes 20-60 minutes to perform and most patients will need to undergo two treatment sessions, sometimes three, in order to achieve a satisfactory result.
What can happen after treatment?
You may observe small, dark specks in your lower field of vision immediately following treatment, but these small gas bubbles will quickly dissolve. It is also important to note that some patients may experience mild discomfort, redness or temporarily blurred vision directly following treatment.
Complications and side effects
Reported side effects and complications associated with vitreolysis are rare. Side effects may include cataract and intraocular pressure (IOP) spike.
Who will benefit from vitreolysis?
It is necessary to undergo an ophthalmic examination to determine your eligibility for vitreolysis treatment.
- Age: In most cases, younger patients(<45) suffer from microscopic floaters located close to the retina (1-2 mm) and are not considered to be good candidates for vitreolysis treatment.
- Onset of Symptoms: If your floater symptoms develop very quickly then they may be associated with PVD, which can be treated with vitreolysis.
- Floater Characteristics: Large floaters with a soft border, situated away from the retina, are ideally suited to treatment with vitreolysis.
What if vitreolysis doesn’t work for me?
Clinical studies have shown vitreolysis to be safe, effective treatment in the majority of patients. If floaters persist, however, your Ophthalmologist may recommend surgery.
Depending on your diagnosis, there are several forms of surgery available. Performed in the operating room, surgery involves removal of all or part of the vitreous humour, which is then replaced with a balanced, electrolyte saltwater solution. Surgery carries a significant risk of bleeding and infection and can also result in cataract formation. On average, it takes 1-2 hours to perform this surgery.