Not the Lights I Planned to See this Christmas

It’s been an unseasonably warm few months here in the midwest. I’ve been taking complete advantage of the nicer weather and enjoying my morning run outside each day. It sure beats the treadmill in the basement!

A torn retina in my past

In an article I wrote last year titled Goodbye Vitreous Gel, I Won’t Be Missing You, I explained how a few years ago I chose to stop running in order to keep my retinas intact. You see, I had just been blessed with laser surgery on a torn retina... I say blessed because I’m so lucky that my tear was caught and repaired… and found myself terrified of a repeat mishap.

Symptoms of a torn retina

There are a few symptoms that shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to our eyes. If you’ve ever been to a retina specialist, you were probably told that flashing lights, lots of specks of pepper looking spots floating around, or a curtain coming in from any angle of the eye are signs to go see your RS as soon as possible. I experienced flashing lights when my retina was torn.

I chose to stop running

It’s impossible to know why my retina tore. Well, except for the fact that my extremely myopic eyes are shaped like footballs instead of basketballs, leaving my retinas too thin (and more susceptible to tears). However, after some personal research and a chat with my retina specialist, I found out that my vitreous gel was detaching and could very well take my retina down with it.

Doing whatever I could to protect my eyes

Running wasn’t necessarily the culprit of my torn retina, but I had to trust my gut. I knew that each pounding step I took could potentially put the pressure on my eyes that would cause another tear. So, I painstakingly decided to give up my running hobby until my vitreous gel fully detached in both eyes.

Is detached vitreous gel dangerous?

Though it sounds scary, a detached vitreous gel isn’t as bad as it may seem. Everyone’s vitreous gel detaches at some point in their lives, usually later in life. Detached vitreous gel may sound scary, but really it doesn’t pose much problem for us other than possible tears in our retinas while detaching and floaters. Floaters come from our detached gel floating around in our eyes. Now ya know!

Great news for me

After a few years, my retina specialist let me know that my vitreous gel had successfully detached in both eyes. This was great news for me because that meant that my chances of a torn retina went down to almost none. And that meant that I could resume running again. Awesome news!

More flashing lights

As I started my morning run this time, I noticed more flashing lights. My heart immediately sank into my stomach. I knew that my retinas were pretty much safe from being torn, but I could not ignore these symptoms. I took the day off work, made sub plans for my class, secured my kiddos at home who were learning remotely, and went to see my retina specialist right away.

Fitting us in when we need them

It’s worth mentioning that even though our specialists are really busy, they do fit us in when we need them most. That’s been my experience at least. I got good news that my retina was intact with no tear. Well, I thought it was good news, but the more I think about it... it may be better news to know what was wrong and to have the ability to fix it. Where it stands, I just have these new flashing lights that love to show themselves throughout the day as I wonder if they’ll ever go away.

In the second part of this article series, I will discuss the emotional aspect of a new symptom of macular degeneration.

Andrea Junge

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