flashes and floaters and eyes--oh my!
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
hi everyone--just wanted to pass along what i learned yesterday at the eye dr.
last thursday afternoon i began to see a thin cresent of light in my peripheral vision. it was faint and would flash when i turned my head or moved my eyes. then suddenly this large dark image appeared in my field of view. it looked like a bug flying in front of my face. it moved around as i shifted my eyes and was totally annoying. this went on through the weekend. the light was not visible during the day, but when it was dark i would see it periodically flashing. the dark spot appeared and disappeared as it seemed to drift around in my field of view. this is a condition referred to as "flashes and floaters". i knew a little bit about it, and i knew that i needed to go and have my retina examined to be sure that there was no evidence of a retinal tear, because these symptoms can be caused by that. a retinal tear is a medical emergency and action must be taken quickly to prevent a detachment that can cause a loss of vision in the eye. so its off to the eye dr. for a look. they did a scan of my retinas with a new kind of imaging device--the great news is you don't have to have your eyes dialated for this. as pressed for time as i was i didn't have the time to wait for my eyes to return to normal after dialation to drive, as well as dealing with the inevitable migrane that hits me afterwards.
the retinal scan was very quick and painless, and the dr. was able to determine that all the parts of my eyes are fine. he showed me my optic nerves, my maculae and the overall retina, all of which were okay.
then he explained (with the help of a video) that as some people age, the vitreous humor--which is the jelly that makes up the substance of your eyeball--gets less "wet" and can change its shape. when this happens it sort of pulls on the retina while it is reconforming to the shape of the eye socket and this results in the flashes of light. sometimes when this happens a bit of gunk can break loose and get to drifiting around in the vitreous--which is the dark spot i am seeing (called floaters--how imaginative!) what i am seeing is not the actual piece of gunk, but a shadow that is being cast on my retina, since the gunk is between the light coming into my eye and the retina. he was able to show me the floater as well-- nestled right near my optic nerve. he explained that this location is kind of a classic presentation of the event. according to him, my floater will not go away--it will most likely diminish in size somewhat (it already seems to be a little smaller) and that my brain will adjust to the presence of it and eventually i will no longer see it unless the conditions are just right. its annoying but is slowly improving, and now that i don't have to worry that i have a real serious problem, i can deal with it and be patient for it to go away. the name for this event is "posterior vitreous detachment" and it is not uncommon in middle aged to older people. nearsightedness (which i have in abundance) is another predisposing factor because the eye has a somewhat distorted shape. there are other factors that can predispose you to this--diabetes is a big one.
so the bottom line is--if you start to see flashes AND floaters together, its a good idea to have someone look at your retina to be sure all is well. 9 times out of 10 it will be. retinal tears don't hurt, and you can have one without realizing it--and while trauma (like hitting your head really hard) is a common cause of retinal tears, it isn't necessarily the only cause.
hope this is useful to someone! have a great day!