This story is part of a series on the current progression in Regenerative Medicine. This piece is part of a series dedicated to the eye and improvements in restoring vision.
In 1999, I defined regenerative medicine as the collection of interventions that restore tissues and organs damaged by disease, injured by trauma, or worn by time to normal function. I include a full spectrum of chemical, gene, and protein-based medicines, cell-based therapies, and biomechanical interventions that achieve that goal.
Have you ever noticed specks or strings drifting across your vision?
If so, you may be one of the estimated 70% of people worldwide who experience eye floaters at some point. While this condition is not typically considered severe, it can still be frustrating and uncomfortable, affecting your vision and quality of life.
Usually, the brain ignores these floaters, and they go unnoticed. However, when they increase in number or become more concentrated in a particular area, they can cause annoyance or discomfort.
There are several treatments available to help ease the symptoms of eye floaters. This article will discuss the different options and advances in artificial intelligence that can educate patients and enhance the management of this common condition.
What are Floaters?
Eye floaters are specks or strands that can appear in the field of vision and move around when the eyes move. These floaters are caused by the shrinking of the vitreous, a gel-like substance that fills the eye. The vitreous becomes more liquid and less gel-like as we age, causing the collagen fibers to clump together and form specks or strands.
While most floaters are harmless and do not require treatment, some may indicate a severe eye condition, such as retinal detachment or inflammation. Aside from that, eye floaters can be distracting and, at times, concerning significantly when their numbers increase. Some individuals may experience significant interference with their vision, compromising their quality of life and overall well-being.
Treating Eye Floaters
Fortunately, several current treatments address eye floaters, with various approaches depending on the individual’s condition and overall severity of symptoms.
Laser Floater Treatment (LFT) is a non-surgical procedure performed in the office that is used as one of the current treatments for eye floaters. LFT uses laser light to dissolve eye floaters, reducing their visibility in the patient’s field of vision. It has emerged as a viable alternative for people who are hesitant to undergo surgery, as it poses minimal risk of complications and is a less invasive option than surgical treatments.
Studies have shown that LFT is effective in treating eye floaters. One such investigation, which assessed the safety and effectiveness of YAG laser vitreolysis as a treatment for vitreous floaters, concluded that LFT is a suitable option for patients hesitant to undergo surgery due to its minimal risk of complications. The study also found that LFT shows promising results in improving subjective and objective outcomes for symptomatic floaters. However, given the limited available evidence, further research is needed to determine the exact role of YAG laser vitreolysis in treating vitreous floaters.
Another current treatment option for eye floaters is vitrectomy, a surgical procedure that involves removing the vitreous, the jelly-like substance inside the eye where the floaters are suspended. This approach is relatively uncommon and is typically reserved for extreme cases where the floaters interfere significantly with the individual’s vision. Vitrectomy carries some risks, including infection and retinal detachment.
Eye floaters can also be treated through medical management and patient education, especially if an underlying medical condition causes them. For instance, if the floaters result from inflammation or bleeding due to diabetes, controlling or treating the underlying condition can help alleviate the floaters.
The Role of Patient Education in Treating Floaters
Educating patients regarding eye floaters and related disorders is paramount to successful treatment. Patients should understand the condition, including its causes and available treatment options. Additionally, they should be informed about the risk factors, such as age, eye trauma, and specific medical conditions that can lead to eye floaters. By being mindful of these risk factors, patients can take preventative measures to avoid the development of eye floaters.
The study published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science examined AI chatbots for patient education on retinal floaters. The study assessed multiple AI chatbots and their ability to help provide practical and actionable patient education. It also highlights AI systems’ accuracy in answering questions related to floaters from a retinal specialist point of view.
The researchers found that both ChatGPT™ and Google Assistant™ had weak scores, indicating the bots were inadequate in providing in-depth specialist information. Additionally, while AI chatbots can be a helpful tool for patient education, they should not replace the need for a qualified healthcare professional. Patients must be encouraged to seek medical advice and not rely solely on AI chatbots for diagnosis and treatment.
To a Clearer Future
Eye floaters are a common condition that can be uncomfortable and negatively impact one’s quality of life significantly as the number of floaters increases. Fortunately, several treatments are available for eye floaters, including Laser Floater Treatment (LFT). Studies show that LFT effectively treats vitreous floaters and has promising results in improving subjective and objective outcomes for symptomatic floaters.
As technology advances and shapes the healthcare industry, the future of eye floater treatment looks promising. Integrating artificial intelligence and human expertise can improve patient care by providing accurate and tailored information and guidance to patients and caregivers, helping them make informed decisions about their health. We can look forward to a future where AI and human expertise work together to provide the best possible patient care.
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