No joy on the @#*! eye floaters

Updated February 6, 2012: additions made to paragraphs 4-6.

As if being myopic isn’t bad enough, what with the glasses in grade school and the terror of being caught in your spectacles by unannounced visitors, you also suffer the annoyance of your vitreous gel separating from your eyeball, lots of little cells floating up from the tear site, and groups of them forming into chains and blobs. Right smack in front of your retina. Like dust on a camera lens. All. The. Time.

In the winter, against the white snow, they are maddening. It got to the point where I was ready to rob a convenience store and drive to an optometrist in Virginia who uses a YAG laser to shoot the chains and blobs into oblivion. But then I got my contact lens prescription updated and my astigmatism corrected, and the floaters were tolerable again. They are still there, but they don’t drive me bonkers, and I can use the $5,000 on something else.

I’m pretty lucky in that my optometrist doesn’t tell me that I’ll learn to ignore them. He agrees that floaters can drive you nuts, especially with the constant blinking to try to move them out of your center of vision. The only treatment he has ever heard of is one in which the vitreous gel is suctioned out of the eyeball. He considers this a really bad idea, as one of its occasional side effects requires removal of the eye.

When I went looking online for people who were battling this I didn’t find any bona fide success stories, although there were a lot of theories about vitamin C helping and vitamin A making things worse. I found an account of success with four months of hyaluronic acid, which is harmless enough. I tried it for a few weeks but wasn’t religious about it, so I can’t conclude anything yet.

I also found people who felt that dehydration was to blame for theirs. If I understand correctly, hyaluronic acid draws in water, so perhaps levels of both have to be just right. According to Sandy Simmons’ Connective Tissue Disorder site, vitamin C can degrade hyaluronic acid — she cites this article — which might explain why it makes my eye floaters worse.

As I mention in my review of the CureTogether crowd-sourced research site, several users there indicate that they’ve found omega-3 fatty acids to be helpful. That’s next on my list.

Trying to find information about YAG treatments was a challenge. Many optometrists’ websites insist the danger of damaging the retina is too high. Other sites, including, obviously, those of the three US practitioners, present seemingly convincing arguments as to why this risk is minimal. I finally found a discussion group of people who have actually tried the treatments, and they seem to indicate the retinal injury risk is an issue. Hopefully the future will bring better information on the subject.

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