Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Looking Through an Inky Curtain

I've always been an overachiever and early bloomer.  But for some things associated with aging, it's not necessarily good to be ahead of the game.

This past week, we were working hard to prepare for a neighborhood yard sale taking place on Saturday.  We were so busy that I hardly had any time to catch up on blogs, write posts, or read a book.  I did try to avoid becoming too entirely exhausted or overworked so as to not tempt fate with provoking an MS relapse or an RA flare.

Besides living with MS and RA, I deal with health issues which are much more common.  One of those is nearsightedness.  Well, actually, my nearsightedness isn't so common as it is extreme.  I began wearing glasses at the age of 4 and currently require prescription lenses in excess of 12 diopters (a measurement of optic power of a lens).

Due to my extreme nearsightedness, I have been warned against the increased risk of developing a retinal detachment.  Ever since high school, I have been reminded time and time again to seek medical treatment immediately if I suddenly experienced flashes of light or a change in vision.  It was the fear of a retinal detachment which sent me running to the eye doctor when I first developed optic neuritis in March 2000.

On Friday when I noticed an increase in "floaters" in my left eye, I didn't think much about it except that I was mildly annoyed.  Then on Saturday, the floaters became more prominent and I wondered if I wasn't just really worn down from all of the extra work.  On Sunday, I noted some flashes of light in my peripheral vision.  Crap, I thought, I don't need a case of optic neuritis right now or some other problem.

Monday, I called my eye doctor who worked me into the schedule.  My diagnosis: posterior vitreous detachment.

The vitreous gel is a jelly-like substance which fills the space between the lens and the retina in your eye.  The vitreous membrane is a layer of collagen which separates the gel from the rest of the eye and is attached to the optic nerve.  As a normal part of aging, the vitreous gel often liquifies and may collapse.  When this happens, you may notice "floaters" which are generally harmless.

I have had small floaters visible in my right eye for a few years now.  My doctor described them as resulting from bits of the vitreous sticking together creating a shadow on the retina as light passes through the eye.  Until last week, my left eye was floater-free.

When you experience a sudden increase in floaters and/or flashes of light, it can be an indication of something more serious.  They may be a sign of retinal tears or retinal detachment.  And, it may indicate posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) as in my case.

PVD is common, occurring in 75% of the population over the age of 65, but is not uncommon in persons who are in their 40's or 50's.  Being nearsighted increases the risk of PVD.  Approximately 1 in 7 persons who develop PVD will also develop retinal tears as the vitreous membrane pulls away from the retina.  The symptoms are the same for PVDs with or without retinal tears so an immediate examination is vital as retinal tears must be treated in order to prevent retinal detachment.

The good news is that I do not currently have any retinal tears.  But the risk is still increased during the next six months and follow-up examinations will be necessary.  More good news is that gravity may help to bring these floaters somewhat out of my central line of sight.  Once the vitreous membrane completely detaches from the retina, it will no longer cause the flashes of light and the risk of retinal tearing disappears. 

I will mostly likely develop posterior vitreous detachment in my right eye within the next couple of years.  Ah, aging. 


  1. I'm sorry about your eye problem. But didn't quite understand what the doctors and you are doing about it.

  2. It sounds like more of a distraction than a sign of pending vision loss. I hope I'm understanding that correctly. I, too, was diagnosed with myopia at an early age and have been wearing glasses since age 7. I don't think my eyes are quite as bad as yours, but I have a rather bad case of astigmatism to go along with my nearsightedness. Since getting MS I had to give up wearing contact lenses because I no longer have a "snappy blink." My eyes dry out much too easily to comfortably wear lenses. Of course, I haven't checked into this since the advent of better contact lens options. Perhaps I will check this out next time around to the eye doctor.

    Good luck to you, Lisa. Sending good thoughts your way.

  3. It is more of an annoyance and distraction than it is anything else. Since there are no retinal tears, nothing is to be done (for which I'm very glad). I'm also thankful that this wasn't another case of optic neuritis with different symptoms.

    Webster, contact materials are definitely better than they used to be. However, I gotta tell ya. I have lenses which are supposed to have a higher moisture content, but I've blinked those lenses out after they've dried out a bit too much on several occasions. It's happened more often while I'm driving which is rather hazardous.

  4. Am I allowed to say 'oh, crap!' or something a bit stronger here? With everything good going on in your life, the health stuff need to pass on and leave you be.

  5. Laura, you're allowed to say anything you wish! I've said plenty of things at various moments. It could have been something worse though. :)

  6. Been there on this one, including small retinal tears and what they called myopic maculardegeneration that was treated with a fancy photodynamic therapy. The myopic in that phrase reminds me of what you are talking about--due to extreme nearsightedness.

    The doc told me I was too young to have it called age-related macular degeneration (and I was in my 60's!)

    Taking my eye vitamins every day, and especially lutein, made a huge difference for me. No more degeneration or retinal tears and no new floaters in 9 years, just dealing with the old floaters which is interesting enough, all by itself.

  7. I know the retina detachment stuff too well since my Dad and sisters retina tore...I had laser treatment for the holes in my retina. I am too young too!! Aging is not for wimps:)

  8. I had first thought I had that too, but like you it was optic neuritis.
    Does one lead to the other?