My Retinal Detachment Story
This is a “do as I say, not as I do” warning for everyone, not just those of us with macular degeneration. Always, always, call your eye doctor immediately when anything changes or something new happens.
Ignoring my symptoms
Recently, I had a sudden onset of cobweb-like floaters in my right eye, the one with dry macular degeneration. No light flashes, no blurred vision. I thought it was probably the beginning of a posterior vitreous detachment, which had happened to my left eye a couple of years previously. But as there were no complications then, I incorrectly thought there was no need to rush this time. I was scheduled for an anti-VEGF injection in my other eye a week or so later and decided to wait until then to have it checked out. Wrong decision!
A few days after that I suddenly lost about 1/4 of the vision in my right eye. Also, I felt increased pressure. My immediate thought was that I had had a major bleed, perhaps the start of advanced wet macular degeneration. Wrong again!
The diagnosis: retinal detachment
A call to my retinal specialist turned out to be fruitless as he was on a well-earned vacation. His staff said to go to the emergency room where the on-call ophthalmologist would look after me.
Imagine my surprise when I learned it wasn’t neovascular macular degeneration, but a retinal detachment. We should never diagnose ourselves!
What followed was immediate, unpleasant, but sight-saving. I underwent a pneumatic retinopexy. There are other options, but this is the less invasive choice and is said to have a slightly lower risk of complications.
Undergoing a pneumatic retinopexy
After dilating and numbing, it felt like he was manipulating the retina back up into place. I could be wrong on this, but he spent some time doing something inside my eye. Next was an injection of a gas which increased the pressure so that all I could see was black. Then a removal of either gas or vitreous to relieve the pressure. None of this was painful, just uncomfortable.
I was given instructions to keep my head at a 45° angle, to keep the gas bubble floating up to the detached area and pushing it into place against the back of my eye. I was then sent home and told to come back the next morning.
When I returned, the doctor performed a laser procedure to seal the retina in place. This was not pleasant! It seemed he needed to get at the repair from different angles and felt like he was moving my eyeball more than it wanted to move. Then, I went through another 5 days with my head at that 45° angle, even while sleeping.
During this time I had a large black bubble of gas floating around in my vision whenever I moved my head. Very disconcerting to the point where I started to wear a patch on that eye when I needed to walk. It has slowly disappeared. When I saw my doctor at that five-day appointment, I was told it looked successful and I didn’t need to continue the painful 45° angle head tilt, thank goodness.
Lesson learned: seek medical advice right away!
Now, my vision is almost back to normal. Not quite as clear as it had been, but that may still improve. Please, please, don’t make my mistake. I was lucky. It could have ended very differently.
Have you gotten a second opinion about your macular degeneration?
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