I had just arrived at my hotel in Madrid from Bogota, Columbia and was standing in an all white hallway, with white walls, ceiling and floors, trying to concentrate on a discussion with a fellow travel. Unfortunately, I was more focused on the unusual black lines that marred the walls and floor. I thought guests had pulled their suitcases too close to the wall and scarred the stark white paint.
Well, not really.
The lines moved, almost like lightening, disappearing from the floor and flipping on the lower wall and flash upward, toward the ceiling. Then, evaporated...but only for a split second before appearing again.
I scanned the area for a flickering lamp or a child playing with a flashlight, hoping on hope that some light was causing these strange lights and line.
I blinked, slowly at first, trying to erase whatever was screwing with my
vision. Then, much faster, just to prove to myself the unthinkable.
It was futile.
The black lines had congregated in...yes...in my right eye. Eye strain and motion sickness began setting in. And, of course, fear...fear of retina detachment. I already knew if retinal detachment was not addressed immediately, I would go blind in that eye.
I rushed a block away to an eye clinic. The optometrist conducted a 45-minute long exam. She said she saw no problems but recommended I go to an ophthalmologist immediately for a more thorough examination. She added that ophthalmologists' offices are burdened with patients and I would have to wait least two weeks.
I explained I was leaving in two days for Prishtina, Kosovo.
Three very long days later, I was in an eye clinic in Prishtina. Dr Zikolli took me in as an emergency when I explained I was worried about retinal detachment.
Good news! My retina was not detaching. Rather, I was experiencing vitreous detachment...typical in an "aging eye."
The National Eye Institute explains:
What is vitreous detachment?
Most of the eye’s interior is filled with vitreous, a gel-like substance that helps the eye maintain a round shape. There are millions of fine fibers intertwined within the vitreous that are attached to the surface of the retina, the eye’s light-sensitive tissue. As we age, the vitreous slowly shrinks, and these fine fibers pull on the retinal surface. Usually the fibers break, allowing the vitreous to separate and shrink from the retina. This is a vitreous detachment.
In most cases, a vitreous detachment, also known as a posterior vitreous detachment, is not sight-threatening and requires no treatment.
Who is at risk for vitreous detachment?
A vitreous detachment is a common condition that usually affects people over age 50, and is very common after age 80. People who are nearsighted are also at increased risk. Those who have a vitreous detachment in one eye are likely to have one in the other, although it may not happen until years later.
What are the symptoms of vitreous detachment?
As the vitreous shrinks, it becomes somewhat stringy, and the strands can cast tiny shadows on the retina that you may notice as floaters, which appear as little “cobwebs” or specks that seem to float about in your field of vision. If you try to look at these shadows they appear to quickly dart out of the way.
One symptom of a vitreous detachment is a small but sudden increase in the number of new floaters. This increase in floaters may be accompanied by flashes of light (lightning streaks) in your peripheral, or side, vision. In most cases, either you will not notice a vitreous detachment, or you will find it merely annoying because of the increase in floaters.
How is vitreous detachment detected?
The only way to diagnose the cause of the problem is by a comprehensive dilated eye examination. If the vitreous detachment has led to a macular hole or detached retina, early treatment can help prevent loss of vision.
How does vitreous detachment affect vision?
Although a vitreous detachment does not threaten sight, once in a while some of the vitreous fibers pull so hard on the retina that they create a macular hole to or lead to a retinal detachment. Both of these conditions are sight-threatening and should be treated immediately.
If left untreated, a macular hole or detached retina can lead to permanent vision loss in the affected eye. Those who experience a sudden increase in floaters or an increase in flashes of light in peripheral vision should have an eye care professional examine their eyes as soon as possible.
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Wow! I knew nothing about vitreous detachment! Dr. Muhamet Zekolli, and his staff at the Kubati Eye Clinic were extremely efficient and thorough, using a multitude of high-tech machines to examine every aspect of my eyes.
The exams included, test for glaucoma, distance, intense light examination, pictures of my eye balls, and ultrasound with pictures, too.
And the annoying floaters? No, the floaters don't disappear. They remain but the eye disregards them.
The brain, our wonderful brains, naturally, over time...say two months or so...trick our eyes so that the floaters seemingly disappear and clear vision returns.
It's been 5 months since the floaters first appeared in my eye. Today, they are no longer visible!
By the way, I don't have health insurance to cover these costs. I had to pay full price for each examination. Total cost per appointment: 20 euros!
Update: While on three-month hiatus from my consulting work at the American University of Kosovo, floaters materialized in my left eye just about 5 days before my return to Prishtina, Kosovo. Again, Dr. Zekolli treated me as an emergency patient and I was in his office within16 hours of landing. Same thing: vitreous detachment, no worries, and come back for another check up in 6 weeks.
Oh yeah, 20 euros. Sweet!
I'm so relieved....