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Eye Health - Something to "watch" for
Old 06-27-2013, 11:33 AM   #1
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Eye Health - Something to "watch" for

A few weeks ago, I started to see "flashes" of light when I would dart my eyes, side to side. At the time this began, I noticed a lot of new "floaters" in my vision. I wasn't too concerned as I had experienced floaters as far back as I can recall. The flashes were not bothersome - just different. As luck (providence?) would have it, my annual trek to the midwest meant that I would have my annual eye check-up. The doc seemed to think my eyes were fine following his usual tests. I happened to mention the symptoms and he said he needed to take a closer look. He tried one test (sort of a magnifying glass with lots of light - having me looking up, down, sided to side, all the time moving my eyes "lock-to-lock".) He said he saw something suspicious and did yet another test. Seemed the same, but apparently was more illuminating (heh, heh). He said "Yep, a torn retina." Panic city, but I sat quietly. Apparently, those of us near or past retirement age are prone to small tears as the inner "capsule" (not his words, IIRC) pulls away from the retina. If a piece of the capsule "sticks" during the process, it can tear a hole in the retina. That, in itself is not such a big deal, but it can cause the fluid in the eye to "leak" behind the capsule and separate the retina from the cpasule. THAT is a big deal as it can cause partial or total blindness in that eye. If it does, it MAY be possible to restore vision, BUT, better is to catch it early - like my doc did - and "fix" the tear. In my case, it was in front of the orbit so was treated with cryo-freezing. If behind the orbit, a lazer is needed to repair the tear.

Okay, so I'm telling this story to suggest we all keep an eye out (heh, heh) for similar symptoms AND to suggest at least yearly eye-health check ups (not just refraction for glasses). Apparently, this is reasonably common for folks of our tender ages. YMMV
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Old 06-27-2013, 11:53 AM   #2
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I also had a torn retina about two years ago. I never had any "flashes" or increased floaters. Just woke up with a half-moon gray area occluding about 30% of my sight in the right eye. I have always been very near sighted in that eye, and had cataract surgery 3 years prior to this, making this eye particularly at risk.

I had an in-office procedure that same day that involved cryo of some of the torn edges and injection of a gas bubble to flatten and hold the ripped retina flat against the back of my eye. I had to keep my head in a very awkward position for 10 days to help keep the gas bubble positioned correctly.

It was all a success and have great vision now. But it was scary at the time for sure.
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Old 06-27-2013, 12:49 PM   #3
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I had one of those posterior vitreous detachments a few years ago, with the flashes of light in my corner vision when in the dark, accompanied by floaters. Your right, when ever you get those flashes of light, get to an opthamologist right aways as it could lead to a detached retina.
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:30 PM   #4
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Another ocular issue common in ER is a choroidal nevis. This is a small growth on the middle layer of the retina, often noted incidentally by your friendly optometrist, who then refers you to an ophthalmologist (who sometimes refers you to a retina specialist).

The rub is that these tumors can directly cause flashes of light and vision impairment (rare) and also resemble and sometimes turn into melanoma of the retina - not good but not as bad advanced skin melanoma. Most turn out OK but it's a big deal if melanoma has occurred.
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As if you didn't know..If the above message contains medical content, it's NOT intended as advice, and may not be accurate, applicable or sufficient. Don't rely on it for any purpose. Consult your own doctor for all medical advice.
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:55 PM   #5
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IIRC, the floaters are the key to needing followup. I started getting flashes in the corner of my eye when I look around in the dark a few years ago. I was on a bike trip with an eye doctor and asked him if I needed to worry. After I described the symptoms he told me it was routine for my age (then about 62). He said the retina pulls away a bit and causes flashes. If that is all that happens, no problem. There was another symptom I didn't have (which I think was floaters) that would warrant a close look for a detached retina.
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Old 06-27-2013, 04:58 PM   #6
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I always worry about my eyes. I have such bad eyesight, and have since I was a child, so I figure it is only a matter of time before I'm in trouble. Thanks for sharing your story, I will keep an eye out for bright lights.
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Old 06-27-2013, 05:14 PM   #7
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I had the laser procedure a couple of months ago. I was referred to a retina specialist as a precaution by my opthamologist a few weeks prior to planned cataract surgery, as I only have vision in one eye. The retina doc said I had a mild tear and a hole in the retina and he did the laser procedure that day. It was all quite scary, as the laser kind of leaves you blind for a couple of minutes, but vision quickly came back and it all went well. I had the cataract surgery about a month later and my vision is great now. I have to go back to the retina doc in a few weeks for a follow up.
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Old 06-27-2013, 05:57 PM   #8
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I visit a military opthomologist annually and they always ask about floaters. Sometime I seem to have them, but have not seen any in over a year. I have cataracts to worry about, so floaters don't seem so bad to me.
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Old 06-27-2013, 07:20 PM   #9
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Just had an appt with my opthamologist because I started having a couple of floaters in one eye. DH has them...so knew they are common for our age..mid 60's.., but had read they rarely could be a sign of other issues. What the doc said after dilating my eye and looking is that no sign of retina detachment ..so things just fine. He said the first week or two following initial floater appearance is when retina detachment is most likely to occur. He said chances are within 2 yrs other eye will experience them also... And if/when this happens, or if I notice an increase in the eye that has them now...call, even on a weekend, and he will see me within 24 hrs. ... Care during that time will give avoiding detachment the best odds. Also said our brains adapt to the floaters and they seem not noticable after awhile....which is how it is for me.
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Old 06-27-2013, 09:42 PM   #10
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Also said our brains adapt to the floaters and they seem not noticable after awhile....which is how it is for me.
My brain hasn't heard about this. I have many floaters in both eyes and have for years although about a year ago I got a new batch in one eye. My eye doctor checked everything out and said all was well, but the floaters are extremely annoying at times. Sometimes they stay near the periphery and aren't too bad, but other times they hang out right in the center of my field of vision and are very distracting.
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:05 PM   #11
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My brain hasn't heard about this. I have many floaters in both eyes and have for years although about a year ago I got a new batch in one eye. My eye doctor checked everything out and said all was well, but the floaters are extremely annoying at times. Sometimes they stay near the periphery and aren't too bad, but other times they hang out right in the center of my field of vision and are very distracting.
I haven't heard about (or seen) floaters before, until reading about it here. All I can think of is great, another old age problem to look forward to and a trail of eye doctors to follow...and let me guess, being one who has never been or needed an eye doctor yet...this isn't covered by your health insurance either, correct?
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Old 06-27-2013, 10:46 PM   #12
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I am due to schedule a visit to the ophthalmologist so thank you for taking the time to bring this up,
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Old 06-27-2013, 11:24 PM   #13
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I haven't heard about (or seen) floaters before, until reading about it here. All I can think of is great, another old age problem to look forward to and a trail of eye doctors to follow...and let me guess, being one who has never been or needed an eye doctor yet...this isn't covered by your health insurance either, correct?
It should be covered, DH's is. We only have to have special vision insurance for optometric services. In fact, my optometrist diagnosed cataract in right eye at last vision check and I'm making appt. w/ophthalmologist tomorrow as I'm nervous not falling nicely into the bell curve and I still have trouble seeing even with much stronger lenses.
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Old 06-28-2013, 12:53 AM   #14
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Unfortunately, I have way too much experience with this. First notice was when working on something and looking to the left, seemed like there was a tiny lightning bolt on the right as my eyes panned left, and vice-versa. If I tried on purpose to look right-left quickly, I couldn't reproduce it. But it seemed to come and go. This went on for a while, then suddenly floater city. Oh man! This was in one eye. Learned about PVD. As the vitreous thickens and pulls away from the retina, the mechanical pulling force on the retina creates a light response to the brain. I guess I got used to some of the floaters from that time, but some are pretty bad, and I think part of it is that I have learned to reduce certain eye movements that really bug me. The floaters can be chunks of more-gelled vitreous, or blood spots. They are black or gray or semi-transparent, no colors, as they are seen as shadows cast onto the retina.

The next time, in the other eye was bad news. All sorts of things happened and was in to an Opthalmologist fast who does some pretty heavy-duty eye work. The vitreous had torn a big part of my retina on the top, the worst place as gravity will help it peel down. I could see a gray shadow in the bottom of my vision in that eye, like I was about to step into a big dark puddle at night. Was given a good chance, but no guaranty.

Argon laser aimed through a coupling lens sitting on the eyeball while I tried to stay focused on a little LED guide light. Pulsed 540 nm (green) laser to burn a pattern of holes through the retina. In 7 - 10 days scar tissue should grow through the holes, tying the retina on again. But the first few days are critical. Lot of checkups, I did nothing physical, no TV computer or any eye work, I wanted to really boost my odds of success, as the Plan B was pretty dire. The laser was many times brighter than the sun. Pain was a dull ache that makes you go "uuugggghhh" and feels like you are getting hammered in the skull. When it's over, had very little vision in either eye due to severe green overload, everything was the opposite, red, a very dark ruby red. This clears as the retina and brain un-saturate and start to perceive. I'm told they do a few of these every week.

It held, but I have loads of floaters, some are connected on one end that swing like an arm. Have ink-spot floaters, sometimes one or two float down right into my focus point which really bugs me. I have found it is best to stay looking exactly where I was, don't follow the floaters, which seems to be the automatic response. If I don't follow, they may slowly sink down with gravity below my main vision point. But follow them, and they will dance all over me! Arrg!

Bright blue sky days are the worst, cloudy days better. Looking in the sky for an airplane or bird yields all sorts of moving targets. Occasionally have a fly that silently goes by me fast, but it's not real. Hard to tell fly floater from a real fly, sound helps!

I use cruise control whenever I possibly can, as the looking from windshield to speedometer to rear-view mirror stirs them up like crazy. One less thing to look at really helps out. No way could I drive one of those cars with the speedo in the center of the dash!

There are all sorts of problems, some I have not described, but it is better than being blind. None of this occurred until I was in my 50's. So now I have a handicap, that no one can see but me. I was fine before.
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Old 06-28-2013, 06:02 AM   #15
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DH had laser treatment for torn retina 2 years ago.
Fortunately he got the laser treatment within some hours.
The likelihood of torn retina increases the more shortsighted one is, they told us.
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Old 06-28-2013, 06:16 AM   #16
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JAlso said our brains adapt to the floaters and they seem not noticable after awhile....which is how it is for me.
Darn, this made me think about my tinnitus which is always there but normally forgotten. Now it is ringing like 17 year locusts.
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Old 06-28-2013, 07:02 AM   #17
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........ The floaters can be chunks of more-gelled vitreous, or blood spots. They are black or gray or semi-transparent, no colors, as they are seen as shadows cast onto the retina.
....I have loads of floaters, some are connected on one end that swing like an arm. Have ink-spot floaters, sometimes one or two float down right into my focus point which really bugs me. I have found it is best to stay looking exactly where I was, don't follow the floaters, which seems to be the automatic response. If I don't follow, they may slowly sink down with gravity below my main vision point. But follow them, and they will dance all over me! Arrg!
....
You've perfectly described what I live with (with some other vision problems). My floaters started in my 20s and I've never gotten used to them. At some point there can be a hazard involved in driving and also difficulty reading, and I wish there were floater-zapping lasers the docs could use.
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Old 06-28-2013, 08:04 AM   #18
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I wish there were floater-zapping lasers the docs could use.
Actually there are a few specialists who perform such floater zapping. I haven't had it done, but it came to my attention when I was researching PVD several years ago.
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Old 06-28-2013, 08:07 AM   #19
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IIRC, the floaters are the key to needing followup. I started getting flashes in the corner of my eye when I look around in the dark a few years ago. I was on a bike trip with an eye doctor and asked him if I needed to worry. After I described the symptoms he told me it was routine for my age (then about 62). He said the retina pulls away a bit and causes flashes. If that is all that happens, no problem. There was another symptom I didn't have (which I think was floaters) that would warrant a close look for a detached retina.
I could be wrong, but I thought it was the other way around, floaters are pretty common, but flashes of light are a call for immediate action, or if you suddenly get an increase in your floaters.
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Old 06-28-2013, 01:53 PM   #20
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I had a PVD incident a few years ago -- I was under 40 at the time, but I am severely shortsighted and apparently due to the oblong shape of my eyeball I am highly susceptible to retinal issues. My mom had had a retinal tear a couple of weeks prior to my incident (flashes when I sneezed or coughed and then floaters), so I was really freaked out by it. Actually went out to Hong Kong to have it looked at as there were no good eye hospitals in the city I was in then.

Thankfully the trip/treatment were covered by my insurance. But it still bugs me that regular vision stuff isn't for most people. Why do insurance plans pay for hearing aids and prosthetic legs but you have to pay for your own eye exams and glasses? Seems incredibly discriminatory to me. Something I may start a campaign about once I FIRE...
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