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.