Laser Treatment for Floaters?

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Age-related changes in the eye can cause floaters-specks or web-like shapes in your visual field-to become more prevalent, sometimes interfering with vision.

Floaters occur with shrinking of the vitreous, a gel-like substance that makes up most of the eye, forming strands that can cast tiny shadows on the retina. One treatment approach, known as YAG (yttrium-aluminum-garnet) vitreolysis, uses a laser to vaporize abnormal tissue in the eye that causes floaters. Until now, evidence that the procedure helps has come from small, uncontrolled studies. An uncontrolled study lacks a comparison (control) group. Recently, researchers reported results from a randomized controlled study.

Fifty-two people with symptomatic floaters were divided into two groups. One group of 36 people was randomly assigned to receive YAG vitreolysis in one eye. The other group, consisting of 16 people, received a sham treatment that mimicked the laser therapy. After six months, people in the YAG group reported 54 percent improvement in symptoms of floaters compared with just 9 percent improvement in the sham control group.

Even so, the improvement the laser patients noted from a single treatment was considered moderate. The treatment is hardly a panacea. This small study, which was reported in 2017 in JAMA Ophthalmology, provided no data about the potential benefit of repeated treatments and did not measure longer-term benefits or complications.

Most ophthalmologists recommend treatment only when floaters interfere with vision. If you’re bothered by floaters, ask your ophthalmologist about treatment options.