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The Presence of Floaters After Cataract Surgery

written by: Ms Lisa • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/14/2011

The presence of floaters after cataract surgery is a symptom of a complication that can occur after a person has had the surgery performed. Let us explore the causes and how they can be corrected.

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    What Are Floaters?

    To better understand why floaters after cataract surgery occur, let us define what floaters are. Floaters are clouds, cobwebs, threads or dots that float in the line of vision. They are actually little specks of protein that become lodged in the fluid that fills the eye.

    Floaters appear to move away when people attempt to look at them. What a person is actually seeing when they see these floating images are the shadows of these specks of protein cast on the retina when light is cast into the eyeball. They become more noticeable when a person is looking at bright light or a white background. They are distracting and can interfere with normal vision.

    Most of the time when floaters occur, it is due to normal changes during the aging process. This is because the vitreous of the eye becomes smaller overtime and tugs on the retina.

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    What Causes Floaters After Cataract Surgery?

    Cataract surgery is when the original lens of the eye is removed and replaced with an artificial one. This procedure is done because the original lens of the eye has become clouded. By replacing the lens, it allows a person to see better than before this procedure is performed.

    This procedure is performed by an ophthalmologist (eye doctor) and is usually carried out on an outpatient basis. This type of surgery is considered a routine surgery to remove a damaged lens in the eye.

    Sometimes complications from the cataract surgery can occur. One complication is when the vitreous becomes separated from the retina part of the eye. This event, known as posterior vitreous detachment (PVD), is what causes floaters after cataract surgery. It is important to note that the floaters are the symptoms of this condition, not the condition itself.

    Is This Complication Serious?

    The answer to that question is yes. The reason is that if PVD is not treated it can lead to a tear of the retina, which can lead to a retinal detachment.

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    What Treatments Are Available to Correct This Complication?

    There are two treatments available if this complication occurs, and both can be performed in the doctor’s office. The first of the two options is laser surgery. This is where the ophthalmologist numbs the eye with anesthetic eye drops and uses a laser to create small burns around any small holes that are present. This resembles welding the retina to the eye so it is less likely to become detached again.

    The ophthalmologist may decide to perform another procedure known as Cryopexy. This procedure yields the same result as the laser surgery. However, instead of using a laser, the eye doctor uses a freezing technique instead. This procedure is used when the tear would be difficult or impossible to reach with the pinpoint laser.

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    On a Special Note

    It is important that if a person experience floaters after cataract surgery, to make an appointment with their ophthalmologist as soon as possible. They are the professionals and would be able to make a proper diagnosis and what treatment would be needed.


    Harvard Health Publications Harvard Medical School


    U.S. National Library of Medicine

    National Eye Institute

    College of Optometry The Ohio State University