Detached Retina Problems — Still Not Over

This post is not a substitute for consulting your physician.

Eye care is critical as we age, and retina health figures in prominently. I am aging some in-depth experience in retina treatments.

detached retina

From the ADAM Encyclopedia at NIH. Click to visit the page.

After a vitrectomy in each eye, I hoped that I was finished with retina problems. I was thrilled with my new vision after the cataracts — a side-effect of each vitrectomy — were removed and new lenses inserted. I even used the word coda in the title of my last post (see below). Sadly, it was not to be.

Just over three weeks ago I began to see new flashes. When this new flashing started, I was unperturbed, but after it continued for most of the morning, I called my retina specialists to schedule a visit. I’ve learned over the last couple of years to call the retina doc rather than wait around. Sure enough, they asked me to come in right away and discovered a small tear in a new location. The doctor treated the tear with the laser and told me to come back in two days so that my regular specialist could check. He checked, and my eye seemed to be OK, but within a few days I was seeing a shadow, a sign that the tear was getting bigger and the retina perhaps detaching.

So I returned to the hospital ambulatory surgery department to get another vitrectomy in my right eye. This time the bubble is longer lasting, part gas and part some type of oil, so three weeks after my surgery, it is still covers most of my vision. When I look through the bubble, I see impressionist images.

My latest retina sketch. After each visit the doctor sits down and does a sketch. The thickly colored sections are where repairs have been done during each vitrectomy.  The bottom is the most recent repair.

My latest retina sketch. After each visit the doctor sits down and does a sketch. The thickly colored sections are where the surgeon made repairs during each vitrectomy. The bottom is the most recent repair.

For six days and nights following the procedure I spent most of the time lying on my right side (during the day 50 minutes on my side, 10 minutes up to take care of various tasks). For three more days I spent significant periods on my right side each morning and afternoon. The purpose of this positioning is to make the bubble put pressure on the repair, acting a bit like a cast that supports a broken bone. About ten days after surgery I returned to work and resumed many of my daily activities but avoiding vigorous exercise and too much lifting for a few more weeks.

I cannot travel by air until the bubble is completely gone, and given how slowly its size is decreasing, I believe it may be six weeks or more. I know I am fortunate because retina treatments can be far more arduous, requiring a person to spend lots more time in various positions.

The above right image is a drawing of my retina, sketched by my surgeon. The area at the top left is where the first detachment occurred, and the area at the bottom left is where the my doctor made the most recent repair. Interestingly, in both cases, due to the physiology of the human eye, I perceived the problems on the right side.

What Did My Doctor Call It?

Eye anatomy and terminology is confusing — as is any vocabulary list of terms that has to do with medical problems. If your physicians uses a lot of eye terminology, this glossary of eye terms, located at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine website, might be helpful — though not to read straight through as you might when you look up a word in the dictionary and then start reading the entire page. If you need the definition of a word or condition that your physician uses — and you did not get around to asking it’s meaning during an appointment — this glossary might help.

Please read my other detached retina posts.

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