You know those squiggly “floater” things you sometimes get darting around in the corner of your vision? Scientists have recently been working on a laser treatment to “zap” them away.
Their study testing out this new treatment was published this week in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology.
First up, what the hell are floaters? Most often they look like squiggly strands in your peripheral vision although they can appear as black dots or cloud specks. Your average everyday squiggler is caused a piece of proteins called collagen floating in the dissolved gel-like fluid in the back of the eye, which cast shadows on the retina when light enters the eye.
Most the time they can be easily ignored but for some people, especially the elderly, these squiggling nuisances can be so severe it affects their ability to see. In serious cases, they can be an indication of retinal detachment or a retinal tear. But, once again, everyone gets them and most the time there is no reason to worry. Although surgeries do exist to treat a severe case of floaters, there are currently no medications on the market for this condition.
Dr Chirag Shah and Dr Jeffrey Heier of Ophthalmic Consultants of Boston are the brains behind the new study to fine-up a non-invasive solution to this problem. They say that laser treatments have been used on floaters for years, but there's very little scientific literature on its effectiveness. So, they gathered 52 patients. 36 of these underwent the YAG laser vitreolysis while the rest received a placebo treatment which used a super-weak dud laser.
Six months after treatment, 54 percent of the group who received the YAG laser treatment reported significant improvement in their symptoms, compared with sham controls (just 9 percent). The treatment also appeared to be relatively safe with no participants reporting any adverse effects.
Much more work is required before this because of a widely available treatment, however. As the study authors note, this is study only has 52 patients and the follow-up period was not long enough to definitively establish whether the treatment had a lasting effect. Equally, the long-term implications are not yet known.
"Greater confidence in these outcomes may result from larger confirmatory studies of longer duration," the authors write.