Detached Retina Problems Still – A Marathon, Not a Sprint

Right retina repairs - late July 2013

Right retina repairs – late July 2013. the little circle in the middle is my macula which is undamaged.

I first began writing about detached retinas here on As Our Parents Age because I found few, if any, blog posts that described the experience objectively and without what I call the “poor-little-old-me” perspective. I also thought that these eye problems had to do mostly with aging, a pertinent topic on this blog.

Who knew, when I wrote that first post describing my retina detachment experience in May 2012, that I would still be writing about the subject in August 2013 and have a good chance of my treatment and care continuing into 2014. I am in that small minority of patients (five percent — can you believe it?) who require extended medical care to fix the problem.

Despite excellent surgeons and my compliance (I like to think of myself as “our lady of compliance”), my right retina detachments continue to re-occur. So I returned to the hospital for the fourth right-eye retina procedure, less than two weeks after the last one. My retina condition even has a name — proliferative vitreoretinopathy (PVR) — which basically means that my retina keeps detaching.

This time my physician added a silicone oil instead of a bubble, and that will remain in my eye for anywhere from two to six months, pressing down on my retina and encouraging it to bind and heal. At the end of the healing process removing the oil requires another surgical procedure. While I am waiting for the healing to occur, I’ll continue on with daily life, albeit a bit less freely and with less sight than I’d like. I’ll even be able to return to my regular exercise regimen.

It’s beginning to feel like I have long since completed a marathon and have continued into an Ironman competition.

Recognize the Symptoms and Understand That They are Not Age-Dependent

Years ago, when my first retina problem occurred, a tear repaired by quick laser surgery to fix, a colleague and friend was in the middle of extended retina treatment, sleeping on a massage table looking down at the floor for weeks and weeks on end. Because of him, I knew the symptoms, yet despite my understanding, I ignored them that first day.  I was lucky!

Only the intervention of a sharp receptionist at my ophthalmologist’s office got me into the same day I called days after I noticed the first flashes. A year or two later, when my first detached retina occurred I was so involved with my day of school activities that I postponed calling until the next morning — not a good idea. I was lucky because these my waiting around did not complicate my problems — they are complicated for some unknown reason. My friend who was lying on his massage table did complicate things by ignoring the problems for more than a month, going to the doctor only when he started to lose his sight.

The people sitting in the waiting rooms at my retina specialists’ offices are all ages, not just people over age 60, so it’s wise to learn more. The best site to help you start learning more is at MedlinePlus, a resource at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Library of Medicine, but the retinal detachment page at the NIH National Eye Institute includes tips for talking with your doctor. These sites include links to explanations, diagrams, videos, pictures, treatment explanations, research, and more. You can find out a lot more about eye health by taking a quiz, What Your Eyes Are Telling You, at WebMD.

This post is not a substitute for talking with your physician.

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