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The Cardiologist's Wife - Seeing "Floaters"?
Aug 23, 2017

Last Thursday evening I walked out of my house to look for my cats and bring them in for the night. Nothing out of the ordinary but suddenly I started to see flashes of bright light in the periphery of my left eye. Unfortunately I knew what this meant as it had happened before. As I thought about it, I realized I had also been experiencing new floaters in the same eye for at least a week. So Friday morning I skipped Zumba and called my ophthalmologist.

For those of you who don’t know what floaters are, here is some very basic anatomy of the eye. Since the solar eclipse on Monday, we’ve been hearing a lot about retinas. Retinas are nerve cells lining the back wall of the eye. The retina senses light and sends signals to the brain, allowing you to see.

The inside of your eye is filled with a clear gel-like substance called vitreous. Floaters are tiny clumps of cells or gel in the vitreous. Though they seem to be on the surface of your eye, they are floating inside and what you are seeing is the shadow these clumps cast on your retina. Floaters appear as small specks or lines that cross your field of vision, making you think there is something in your eye or on your contact lens or glasses. They move or dart away if you try to focus on them. You tend to notice them when you are looking at something plain like the blue sky or a white wall. I also notice them when watching TV. Those who are nearsighted, have had cataract surgery, eye trauma, diabetic retinopathy or some type of inflammation inside the eye are more prone to floaters.

Most floaters are harmless and there is nothing that can be done about them. However, see an eye doctor right away if you notice:

-a sudden onset of new floaters
-flashes of light
-a shadow appears in your peripheral vision
-a curtain seems to cover part or all of your vision

Flashes can appear like lightning or flashing lights in your field of vision and occur when the vitreous rubs or pulls on the retina. These floaters and flashes of light could be symptoms of a detached retina which is when the retina pulls away from the back of your eye. Left untreated, retinal tears can lead to permanent vision loss. Fortunately, some retinal tears can be treated by sealing the retina back to the wall of the eye with laser surgery or cryotherapy, a type of freezing treatment. Both may be performed in the doctor’s office and cause little discomfort. In cases of complete retinal detachment, you may have to have surgery performed in an operating room and it may take months before your vision improves.

Whenever you notice something out of the ordinary with your vision, it pays to have it checked out as soon as possible as your chances of a complete recovery are greater when problems are caught early.

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