One of the most misunderstood visual annoyances people experience is the elusive, weird, and annoying “floater” in the vision. It is elusive in that you usually can’t decide exactly when you are going to see this translucent irregular blob in your vision. It is weird because you’re viewing something that’s clearly inside your eye, but there aren’t other examples of stuff you can see in your eye.
The most apt adjective for a floater in your vision is probably that it is annoying. It is the permanent version of having a piece of lint stuck under the screen protector on your smart phone. It just sits there. It’s not causing you to miss any details or distorting any images you’re viewing. It is just... there. The idea that you can’t do anything about it makes it something you’ll end up thinking about way more than it is worth. The biggest visual symptom of a floater is the fact that its presence can drive you to distraction, just like that lint under a screen protector.
Why do floaters appear?
The reason for describing the nature of these floaters is that, while LASIK doesn’t cause floaters to form, it can certainly cause them to appear. And I don’t just mean that as semantic trickery. The floater itself is usually a tangle of the normal macromolecules found inside the vitreous gel that makes up 80% of the volume of the eye. As the gel liquifies throughout life, some of the stuff inside it — that was clear because it was evenly distributed — collapses down into a blob or a string and floats in front of the retina. LASIK doesn’t cause that to happen, but LASIK can cause it to appear.
As an example, the lint-under-the-screen-protector analogy wasn’t pulled from thin air. I’ve got that exact piece of lint I’m talking about stuck under the screen protector of my iPhone. Here’s what’s interesting, I had that screen protector in place for about a month before I saw the piece of lint. I spotted it for the first time when I was looking at a photo of kids at Sea World. The lint was on a white shirt and I realized it was on the phone not in the photo. Since then, I haven’t looked at my phone once since then and not seen the lint. The photo didn’t put the lint there, but it sure did make it appear and it has been there ever since.
Why do you notice floaters after LASIK?
For a month or two after LASIK, people examine every detail of their eyes and vision in a way they never have before the procedure. It leads to patients asking if LASIK caused a freckle they see on their eye, or a change in how baggy their eyelids are, or a floater in their vision. All of these examples are real and have come up in clinic not once, but multiple times each. LASIK doesn’t cause any of these, but it made them appear to folks who never had a reason to look at details so closely with their eyes (or on their eyes).
The good news is, this means people are picking up on details about their world in a way they never did before LASIK. It’s not even a glass-half-full way of looking at the situation. It is a glass 99.9% full. Sure, a floater may show up because you’re staring at the details of clouds in the sky for the first time, but there are a thousand other details you may be seeing for the first time with eyes that work beautifully without looking through corrective lenses.
Author: Joel Hunter, MD is an Ophthalmologist, Refractive Surgeon, and the Founder of Hunter Vision, a LASIK Orlando Clinic in Florida. A recognized and respected specialist in vision correction who has performed a countless number of refractive surgeries, Joel gives lectures across the country and trains fellow doctors in the newest LASIK surgery techniques.