Friday, June 26, 2015

How Floaters Can Turn Into A Torn Retina
You Need To Act Fast!

The appearance of unusual floaters
was a sign that my retina was tearing. 

Unusual Floaters
Monday, the night before our 25th anniversary, a very unusual floater appeared in my eye. I've always had floaters. Little guys that look like space ships that float across my field of vision. They were a bit annoying but not enough to make me crazy.

But the other night this massive Pac-man looking floater appeared. It didn't just float across my vision, it aggressively whipped around like those bumper car rides. I was also seeing flashes of light when I moved my eye. I knew something was really wrong. 

We spent the morning of our big day in my eye doctor's office. After examining me he said that I had posterior vitreous detachment, not uncommon for someone my age or someone who just had cataract surgery. PVD is a condition where the vitreous, the clear gel-like fluid that fills the inside of your eye, starts to collapse and shrink away from the retina. When it does this, clumps or strands can form in the eye which are the floaters that you see when these objects cast a shadow on the retina.

PVD is more common in people who are nearsighted, have had cataract surgery or YAG laser surgery, or have had inflammation inside the eye. 

I was somewhat relieved that it wasn't as serious as I thought although I wasn't happy that I was going to have to learn to coexist with Pac-man for a long time. Maybe forever. So we went out for a fabulous 25th anniversary dinner and, after a few sake's, I didn't notice the massive floater.

But the Next Day Things Got Much Worse
The next day Pac-man brought out his friends. They looked more like spider webs than floaters. Then the spider webs were joined with a jello-like substance and my vision looked like someone had just faux painted my retina. 

It turns out that when the vitreous moves away from the retina, it sometimes pulls hard enough to tear it in one or more places. If fluid passes through the tear, it can lift the retina off off the back of the eye causing retinal detachment. If not treated, this can lead to blindness.

My Torn Retina
I ran back to my eye clinic. My PVD had progressed to a retinal tear so they immediately sent me to the North Bay Vitreoretinal Surgery Center. After hours of tests and pictures and blinding lights flashing in my eye, they observed two horseshoe retinal tears and some hemorrhaging. This was very serious and I was pretty fortunate to live 30 minutes away from one of the best vitreoretinal surgery centers in the area.

After dilating the pupil to the size of a quarter and giving me numbing drops, they shot my retinal tears with, what seemed like, a hundred laser beams. This welds the retina back together and hopefully will prevent most vision loss. Fortunately, it may have prevented me from going blind. Unfortunately, it didn't get rid of Pac-man and his spidery friends and the beautiful vision that I was enjoying after my cataract surgery is probably gone forever. I keep reminding myself, "I'm not blind."

Act Fast
There was a very high probability that we would have been traveling for our 25th anniversary. It was just a stroke of luck that we decided to stay close to home. The difference between having to deal with a retinal tear and a retinal detachment and face much more serious surgery and possibly blindness, is just a matter of how fast you make it to the doctor. Bottom line, if you see unusual floaters, cobwebs, or flashes of light in your eyes, RUN to a good ophthalmologist. Time is of the essence.


MsJeanette said...

I agree that any flashing lights, unusual floaters, etc. must be dealt with immediately! My retina detached and tore in two spots while I was visiting my ailing uncle in Louisiana. I only had distortion of my vision and damn near flew home (I had ridden there with my cousin (Uncle Bob's daughter) and she was not ready to leave). Had I not been so "thrifty ... cheap ... much my depression parents' daughter", I would have paid the over $1200 for the last seat on a flight home and the pressure changes would have probably ended my vision in that eye.

Anne offered to let me drive her car home but I knew my vision was too compromised for that. So we left the next morning. I called the retina specialist immediately and he worked me in the next morning and if I had not eaten already would have insisted on surgery that afternoon! He did it the next day, had to do a vitriectomy (removed the fluid in the eye), lasered the retina back together and put a band on the eyeball to keep it in approximately the right shape. I am super lucky in that he was able to do the repairs and my vision is almost back to 20/20 (with contacts) in that eye. If you see flashing lights or a sudden change in vision, DO SOMETHING SMART with the best retina doc you can find right away. I have had Type 1 diabetes for over 50 years and have basically kept this guy in my life ever since I found him. My optometrist also shares and reviews his records all the time and sends me back as soon as she sees anything. Good team.

Good nutrition, an active lifestyle and a lot of luck have seen me through many years of extended visual health for a diabetic. Joanne's recipes are all dead on to reduce inflammation and stay healthy. She has been my friend and I love her, but despite my prejudice, I say her advice is highly recommended!

Mary Lou said...

Hi Joanne,
Thanks for sharing this experience. It's so important to understand what is going on with our eyes as we get older. I'm also nearsighted and can see cataract surgery coming into my future.

Dr. Joanne L. Mumola Williams said...

Just make sure you act quickly if it happens to you. I just got back from another emergency visit but thankfully there were no more tears. Just some bleeding from the laser surgery. Hours can mean the difference between a laser treatment and retinal detachment surgery which is quite complicated.