This is the final post about my eye health issues. I haven’t written these articles to garner sympathy. Rather, I hope to educate people to the symptoms and dangers of torn and detached retinas. And to let people who are going through a similar situation know that they aren’t alone. This is what happened, this is what was done about it, and this is what I’m left with. Maybe it’ll help.
My journey started in December 2016, with a natural occurrence that happens to most middle-aged people. As our eyes age, the vitreous gel that fills the central eye cavity liquefies and separates from the retina. When this happens, a person often sees floaters—dots, spots or curly lines, which follow eye movement. Usually this quickly settles down and vision returns to normal. Sometimes, the retina will tear or detach when the gel separates.
If you experience the above symptoms, seek medical care immediately. Call your optometrist without delay; there’s usually one on-call after hours. They’ll check for a break (tear) or detachment and refer you for any necessary procedures. A retinal detachment is an ophthalmologic emergency. The longer the wait for surgery, the lower the chances of a positive outcome. This can not only lead to irreversible vision loss, the health of the entire eye is endangered.
In my case, multiple breaks developed in my left eye’s retina, which I’ve had repaired twice with laser surgery. I now have large, mostly opaque, floaters in my eye that sometimes impede my vision. Rapid blinking usually improves things.
When the same episode happened to my right eye, in April 2017, it resulted in a vitreous hemorrhage. Blood vessels ruptured when the vitreous gel separated from the retina. This hemorrhage caused massive damage to my retina, completely detaching it.
I underwent a complicated surgery to repair my retina, involving a vitrectomy, scleral buckling, and injecting silicon oil into the eye cavity. I gave a detailed explanation of the procedures here.
Although my eye eventually healed, my vision was impaired, and I developed intraocular hypertension – high pressure in my eye. I’d hoped this would improve after the silicon oil was surgically removed in August 2017, but it didn’t.
Not only did the intraocular hypertension continue, I developed a cataract, and what little vision I had began to degrade. I had cataract surgery in July 2018, and while the surgery was successful, it didn’t improve my vision. This was when I first heard the words glaucoma and optic nerve damage in reference to my situation.
Like intraocular hypertension, glaucoma is too much pressure inside the eye cavity. It’s most common in older adults. Fluid in the eye cavity can’t drain properly, and over time the resulting high pressure damages the optic nerve. Early stage glaucoma has no symptoms because damage occurs gradually. In the later stages, symptoms include loss of peripheral vision, eye pain, and blurred vision. Vision damage is permanent and, if untreated, leads to blindness. There’s no cure for optic nerve damage, and various treatments may only prevent further vision loss.
Because vision loss can’t be recovered, it’s important to have regular eye exams that include eye pressure measurements. Seek immediate medical care if you experience sudden vision loss, halos around lights, any vision distortion or severe eye pain. These symptoms could result in optic nerve damage and permanent vision impairment.
In September 2018, I underwent a procedure called laser trabeculoplasty, which sometimes helps reduce intraocular pressure. It didn’t improve my situation.
In December 2018, I had an Ahmed valve implanted in my eye. Although the valve is functioning properly, my intraocular pressure remains unstable. I won’t know for several months whether the surgery will lower the pressure. Meanwhile, I continue to take Latanoprost with Timolol and Brimonidine eye drops.
So after two and a half years, and all those procedures, this is what I’m left with:
I have no functional vision in my right eye, and this is permanent. It’s like I’m looking through a lovely hoar-frost coated window, which is heavily frosted on the nasal side and less on the outer periphery, with the occasional clear spot where I have fleeting slivers of vision. With both eyes open, I see a general blurriness overlaid with an intricate pattern of lines. I often see a fainter version of this when just looking through my good eye.
When I close my eyes, or am in complete darkness, a lightshow starts up. Like looking through a black and white kaleidoscope. It’s elaborate and pretty.
I often have double vision through both eyes. The secondary image always cants to the upper left. It’s particularly bad while using the computer, and brings on tension headaches.
My right pupil is non-reactive and I’m extremely light sensitive, not only to sunlight, but also to bright overhead lights. I wear my pirate glasses, with a dark right lens, when shopping.
I lack depth-perception, so I bump into things, trip over things, and spill things. Everything requires greater concentration.
I’m no longer safe to drive, and I really miss this. So I’ve started using transit. It’s tediously slow, but oh well, it gives me independence.
My right eye aligns slightly to the right instead of looking straight ahead, and my eyelid sometimes droops – usually in bright light or if my eye is strained. This wide-eyed photo shows my dilated pupil, the Ahmed valve, the crooked eye and droopy eyelid.
Usually the valve is a barely discernible bump.
Recently, my right eye becomes increasingly red and irritated throughout each day. My ophthalmologist believes it’s extreme dry eye, made worse by computer-time. Hopefully using a lubricating gel, and patching my eye when on the computer for long durations will help. I swear my eye has a grudge against me, lol.
Despite all this, I don’t ask, ‘why me?’ Naturally, I wish this had never happened, but I don’t dwell on it. I absolutely know I’m lucky compared to the struggles of so many others. Of course I have bad days, but I never feel sorry for myself. It’s more frustration, impatience. I’ve always been a fairly competent person with high standards. I still have those high standards, I’m just not as competent, hence the frustration.
I also won’t play the ‘if only’ game. And I refuse to engage with anyone who wants to focus on the negative. Yes, this happened. Yes, perhaps the outcome should’ve been better. But, this is the outcome I’ve been dealt. Being negative won’t change anything, except make me miserable and bitter. I prefer being positive. I need to be happy, so I choose to accept my situation, and adjust to it the best I can, with no pity-parties.
To anyone dealing with eye problems, I wish you good luck. If you care to read through my articles, I’ve tried to give as much detail and information as possible. Click here to start.