Recent Posts

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Retinal Tear.. Oh My!

About 4 years ago I went in for an appointment with my optometrist to get my eyes checked.  I grew up without ever having health insurance of any kind, and I would go to my appointments on a as needed basis.  Yes, it's not exactly the best approach to my health, but that's what I was accustomed to.  Well I had lost my 5 year old glasses, and I was in need of a new prescription.  That is what brought me into the office that day.  This would be my second professional eye checkup.

Because I was a new patient, they selected to pair me up with a new optometrist who had recently graduated.  While inspecting my eye, she noticed something different.  She suspected it to be a tear and had me wait in the room for another optometrist to confirm her discovery.  My routine eye appointment had turned a tad sour.  All I wanted was a new prescription, but I was getting more than just that.  My diagnosis -- a retinal tear in my right eye.  Eeks!

What is a retinal tear?
The back cavity of the inner eye is filled with clear jelly called vitreous. When the vitreous jelly undergoes the natural aging process it deteriorates and becomes liquid. As the eyeball moves, small pockets of liquid vitreous can move around as well inside the vitreous cavity. This movement causes the vitreous to pull on the retina, causing flashing (photopsia). Normally the jelly is only loosely adherent to the retina and easily peels away from the retina during vitreous degeneration (syneresis). This event is called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) and again is a normal event occurring in most people sometime between 50 and 70 years of age.

However, occasionally, the vitreous jelly is so adherent to the retina and pulls so hard on it that it creates a tear. If this tear is along a blood vessel of the retina this may cause bleeding into the vitreous (called a vitreous hemorrhage) which could lead to a shower of floaters which cloud the vision. Acute retinal tears with or without flashes and floaters pose a risk because fluid can enter through the tear under the retina and lift the retina off, causing a retinal detachment, much like damp wallpaper peeling from the wall. Since PVDs are usually the initiating event of most retinal detachments, this is why PVDs are such a concern. 
Retinal tears may be sealed with lasers or cryotherapy (a freezing treatment), or both, to prevent retinal detachment. These treatments are usually painless and seal the retina to the wall of the eye. Both of these procedures create a scar to seal the retina to the back of the eye. This prevents fluid from traveling through the tear and under the retina, and is thought to be helpful in preventing a retinal detachment.


Oye!  That is no good.  Well I was rushed to see the professionals.  At first my appointment was scheduled for a few weeks away.  Then it kept being pushed up, and the urgency of my eye health kept increasing.  I was in the Eye Care of Delaware office before I knew it.  Why was it so important to seek a professional?  Retinal tears lead to retinal detachments, which then lead to blindness.  Yeah that is no good.  I want to keep my vision!  Honestly, I have no idea how long this tear has been in my eye.  If I try to think back, I probably have experienced the symptoms, but I never noticed that it was a sign of danger.  Stupid Yin!


Luckily the tear was found in time, and I was sent in for laser surgery that day.  The surgery used a laser to repair and seal the tear to prevent it from opening up and causing further damage.  It was super painful and nothing like laser eye correction.  I had the most difficult time keeping my eye open, and it was a struggle to stay positive.  In a few minutes it was all over, and I was sent back home.  There was no recovery time, and I didn't have to wear a patch.  A few weeks later I came back to the office, and the surgery was a success.  Woot!

4 years later, and I'm happy to report that my surgery has held up.  My retinal tear certainly did give me a scare, and I'm glad that it was found in time.  There is no telling what could have happened to my right eye.  In case you are wondering, a laser surgery to seal up my tear cost me about $2k without insurance.  That is why health insurance sure does come in handy.  My parents wanted us to live on the edge of danger.  Yay to healthy eyes!  Now that I do have insurance, I will make sure to visit my optometrist every year.  :)

I wanted to post about my experience to teach others about my retinal tear.  Even if you have perfect vision, it is worth while to go in for a checkup every few years.  You never know what an optometrist may find.  Most people experience floaters.  If you notice an increase in floaters, make an appointment to get it checked out. 

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thankyou, i just found out about mine today.The only problem is that i also dont have insurance and ill have to go to the county hospital to get this procedure done.Those places have ridiculous wait times.I was told about 18 hours!..Thats L.A for you.

Well anyway, im glad you had success with your procedure and im hoping all will work out fine with mine as well.Take care.

Yin said...

@Anonymous: Glad that your retinal tear was discovered and that you are scheduled for surgery. While a tad painful, the surgery is quick and effective. 6.5 years later with no problems :)

Anonymous said...

Have the same issue, got a second opinion & they both said the same. i'm worried-don't have insurance & hard to find affordable one. Thanks for sharing.

Rexie Gardner said...

Just found out I have a tear in my left eye. Thank God I already had a appointment scheduled. Everyones stories have been helpful as I'm scheduled for surgery in a week thanks

Yin said...

@Rexie Gardner: Good luck and hope all goes well during your surgery. Six years later, and my surgery has held up well with no issues.

Jake Gray said...

I too developed a floater. Scared me as i thought it was a bug in my eye. Anyway optometrist sent me to a specialist as with the floaters i had black dots in my whole background with the floater. Specialist found retinal tear and scheduled immediate laser surgery to repair. I hope all goes well.

Kenneth Barn said...

Phew! Good thing you opted for that second opinion. A friend of mine experienced the same thing -- the wrongly diagnosed part -- Good thing she was such a worrywart.

She felt some problem in here eyes; the first doctor she went to told her that she has a Macular Hole and that it wasn't that serious, then just gave her prescriptions instead. But when she went to have a second opinion, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 Macular hole or Partial-thickness holes! Eventually she was treated at the Arizona Retinal Specialists Center, and they did a great job!

Anonymous said...

Hi all, great to read of different experiences here and to find out all seems well for everyone. I woke up one Friday morning with what seemed like a fly in my eye. Rang Ophtamologist and was told it was PVD on the phone. Nothing improved over the weekend so I persisted with looking for an appointment. Saw me and examined the eye on Tuesday confirming it was a retinal tear and virteous hemorage. Was in hospital for surgery on the Wed morning. That was 6 months ago and to this day I still have the big "fly" in the middle of my eye and lots of other floaters in the peripheral vision. Did everyone else regain their normal vision after their surgery. Im very anxious about it.
Thanks

Yin said...

@Anonymous: Have you gone back for a check up? I had my surgery 8 years ago, and I have not run into any issues. I get a check up annually to make sure the surgery has held up well. I would recommend talking to your ophthalmologist and letting him/her know that their symptoms still persist and whether that is normal.

Anonymous said...

Hi Yin, thanks for replying. I had surgery on 9th of April and final check-up on 30th of May and was told surgery was a success and it just takes time for the floaters to go or fade. Was told to come back in 6 months time. Thanks a million

enchantedseashells.com said...

Same laser surgery. SO painful, but all is good, just had 3 month check. Don't ignore the danger signs, people! I knew what it was right away.

Anonymous said...

I've had three tears in the past 2 1/2 months. Started seeing unusual flashes and floaters. Then thousands of black dots when looking at sky (blood). Had to wait a week to see doc. Sent to retinal specialists who sealed two tears with cryo treatment. The cryo wasn't too bad but eye looked terrible for a few days. Now just two weeks ago another tear discovered and doc did the laser treatment for that one. I can't say it was terrible, but it was uncomfortable-but only lasts maybe 5-6 minutes which is a good thing. I still have lots of floaters of course and still flashes, but checked out yesterday and doc says everything looking good.

Anonymous said...

How much was the surgery and did the floaters go away?

Yin said...

@Anonymous: The surgery cost about $2k without insurance. If you contact billing, you can set up a payment arrangement. They are usually very flexible as long as you provide a payment monthly. I paid about $100/month until the bill was paid off.

Yes, the floaters did go away. I see an optometrist yearly, and I have had no issues ever since. It has been 9 years since my surgery.

Pete Tomkins -pittsburgh said...

I am glad that most everyone has had ongoing success with their laser procedures. Recently had my left eye done and will find out next Tuesday if all is well. They had to inject a gas bubble in my eye to allow the fluid to drain from behind the tear. The bubble will be there for a while, I am told, and is very obtrusive. Not fun to deal with especially as it is in my dominant eye. The laser thing was very brutal, not from any burning but the intensity of the light. I must be a whimp because that was just punishing! But the most brutal part of all is the $10,000 (+) price tag they are hitting me with! Eye OK, but now I need a heart transplant after getting walloped with that. Guess I'll be on the 30 year mortgage plan! :)

Yin said...

Hope your recovery goes well. Almost 10 years later and I still remember how painful the laser procedure was. Wishing you good health for the new year and a successful heart transplant.

Unknown said...

Did any of you experience static along the peripheral of your eye after laser? What about very small dots blinking flashes, sometimes after they flash look black? I had a retinal hole related to lattice degeneration and had it lasered as it was causing me a couple of floaters then a few days later some flashes. How long did it take for the flashes or floaters to improve and did they ever go away? Thanks, Tiff

Post a Comment