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.

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And There Was Sight! A Coda for Retina and Cataract Issues

NIH A.D.A.M. Encyclopedia. Click for larger version.

NIH A.D.A.M. Encyclopedia. Click for larger version.

Check out the story about my retinal condition in the March 2013 issue of Prevention. The magazine does not allow non-subscribers to access the articles, but if you happen to be in the grocery check-out line, you can read about many of the eye problems that people experience as they age including the detached retina in my left eye and my subsequent treatment.

If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you have read some of my posts on aging eyes (see below). I wrote these not because I wanted to share my problems — I am actually somewhat shy about doing that — but because eye problems are often a part of aging, and we all need to know what to do about them, whether for ourselves or our elder parents.

Floaters and flashes may indicate an emergency eye condition. Furthermore, cataracts can develop naturally or they can be the result of other eye surgery. Something else important to note is that people who develop cataracts do not need to wait until they are debilitating. Ignoring these problems may only make them worse and make a person far more uncomfortable.

My eye journey of nearly five years has included monitoring, treatments, and surgeries by three amazing surgeons, Drs. Kanifar, Deegan, and Gaspar, who returned my vision to a quality that I cannot remember since I started wearing glasses when I was five years old and contacts when I was twelve.

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Understanding My Aging Eyes After My Detached Retina

Eye Tour Cleveland ClinicI’ve written several posts about eye medical care (post on cataracts – posts on detached retinas). Sometime soon I will share a bit more about my experience with cataract surgery — mine occurred several weeks ago.

Recently I discovered a terrific eye education resource. If you are trying to make sense of the medical health of your eyes or the eyes of an aging parent, get started by educating yourself about the structure of an eye. Check out this wonderful Eye Anatomy Tour, posted over at the Cleveland Clinic website.

Because most of my doctors offer explanations during fairly short appointments, I am not always able to absorb everything. My physicians usually explain things clearly and mostly in an unrushed manner, but I cannot always remember everything that I need (or want) to know.

The nice thing about this animated eye tour is that it can be run over and over — always a useful feature but especially so if an adult child is  explaining an eye condition to an aging parent. When you watch the tour you can also use the Dictionary of Eye Terms, linked from the same web page.

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

Read all of my detached retina posts.

Finding and Wearing Protective Sunglasses After Detached Retina Surgery

This is the pair of sunglasses that I was given at the hospital after my retinal surgery. They fit right over my regular glasses.

Whether we are talking about the eyes of our senior parents or our own aging adult child eyes, protection from the sun is critical for eye health. Urgent, in fact.

The solar shield sunglasses given to me after my eye surgery are comfortable and filter out a lot of the damaging glare and light. They fit right over my glasses when I am not wearing my contact lenses.

When I wear my contacts I use various pairs of sunglasses, but I’ve never been very careful about the UVA and UVB protection — some have it and others do not. Since my retinal surgery I’ve become more selective. Anything I can do to protect my eyes in the coming years, I plan to do.

I’ve discovered that UVA and UVB protection sunglasses come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. I’ve looked at them at Target,  CVS, and Rite Aid. I’ve seen them at my local BJ’s and also at Nordstrom, but at department stores — where the focus is on fashion — one must read the labels carefully.  Online sunglasses are easy to find, but read the fine print.  Foster Grant makes lots of frames with good protection.

Read these resources to learn a bit more about eye and sun safety and choosing protective sunglasses.       Continue reading

Detached Retina: The Bubble and My Initial Recovery Period

At the hospital, just as I sat down in the wheelchair, we snapped this picture. Otherwise  I looked down, down, down for nearly 30 hours,

Note: I received a good question asking why my head is up.  I had just dressed to go home and the picture was snapped before I looked back down.

My first week of recovery, following vitrectomy surgery to repair a detached retina in my left eye, is over. I’ve been thinking a lot about how someone much older than I am, one of my parents, for instance, would deal with the recovery instructions, but more on this in a later post.

After the first 24 hours when I had stared down at the floor for most of the time, I spent four days lying on my right side for 45 – 50 minutes of every hour, dividing time between the bed and the couch. Actually I spent an extra half day on my right side, just to be sure. At bedtime I was able to sleep in my bed, also staying on my right. In this extended process, pillows of all shapes and sizes are good friends.

In each location my husband rigged up the laptop so that I could watch movies — I reviewed the last 30 years of Masterpiece Theatre’s “Upstairs Downstairs.” Overall the week went smoothly although I experienced some very sore muscles.

Despite the sore muscles, I know that I am fortunate as retinal surgery recovery goes. Many people need to lie on massage tables or chairs for long periods of time, even at night. and for more days than I required.

During the surgery my physician inserted a gas bubble in my eye. This bubble serves as a cast, holding the retina in place after the repair. The positions that a person maintains during recovery have to do with keeping the bubble’s pressure against the retina. During the month after my surgery the bubble will gradually decrease in size, but it will be around in some form for most of the month.

Early in the week, my left eye saw only shadows, but sometime late Thursday afternoon I became aware that when I moved my head in a certain direction, a strip of fairly clear eyesight appeared just above the bubble. By Saturday the bubble was approaching half of its former size, and I was seeing fairly well over the top of it. The bubble bounces around a lot.

At a followup appointment with the doctor on Monday morning — eight days post surgery — he told me that I am doing well and I can go back to work if I am careful. I can do no heavy lifting or exercise yet — those will be gradually added back in the next week or two.

This post is not a substitute for talking with a physician.
Read my other detached retina posts.

Do you want to share with other people who have experienced detached retinas? The retina posts here on AsOurParentsAge are descriptive in nature — and this is not a high-traffic blog where people can share experiences. If you seek a group with good conversation and support, check out and consider subscribing to the Detached Retina Group over at Yahoo.

Detached Retina Group Email Addresses

Detached Retina: After My First Surgery

My recovery from detached retina surgery seems to be pain-free, but it is arduous, given the need to maintain certain positions for long periods of time. As a person ages, holding these positions must be increasingly difficult.

Visit the National Eye Institute (NIH) detached retina page.

The Sunday morning surgery took place at a local hospital — where the surgery prep and recovery spaces were nearly empty. Just before my operation another person was wheeled out to recovery, and when I came out, I was the only one in the recovery area. The surgery, on my left eye, took just over an hour, and I was slightly awake, though extremely relaxed, for some of the time.

As they wheeled me out of the operating theatre, the nurse told me to keep my head facing down to the floor — chin to neck — as much as possible for 24 hours. When I asked if I could just curl up in bed, my doctor told me to spend as much time as possible — at least 45 minutes of every hour in the chair with my face down and to go to bed for only the standard eight hours. Once in bed I am required to lie on my right side for the entire night.

The amount of time that one must face down or follow other position instructions has to do with the severity of the detachment. Continue reading