Threat of loss of sight can be frightening, but laser surgery can be an amazing sight saver

Posted on 17 Dec 2010 at 1:37pm

The threat of losing sight is frightening.

That happened to me this week.

Over the weekend, I suddenly noticed something floating in front of my eyes. I began swatting at what I thought was hair. I realized it wasn’t hair.

A smoky film was swirling in front of my left eye. Add to that, hair-like floaters that were making a black kaleidoscope in front of my eye.

Monday morning, I called my optometrist. He said he would see me first thing Tuesday morning.

He dilated my eye, took a pressure test to discount glaucoma, and looked into my retina. Although he wasn’t sure what it was, he saw some fluid floating in my retina. He called a retina specialist who saw me immediately.

In the specialist’s office he confirmed the problem was with the retina and said that both retinas appeared weak but that the left retina had torn. He would repair it with laser surgery.

“Should I make an appointment?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” he said. “We’re doing it right now.”

From the National Eye Institute:

The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the inside of the eye and sends visual messages through the optic nerve to the brain. When the retina detaches, it is lifted or pulled from its normal position. If not promptly treated, retinal detachment can cause permanent vision loss.

From Boulder Eye Specialists:

A retinal detachment is a very serious problem that almost always causes blindness unless treated. The appearance of flashing lights, floating objects, or a gray curtain moving across the field of vision are all indications of a retinal detachment. If any of these occur, see an ophthalmologist right away.

The doctor brought me into a different room. I sat in a chair that reclined like a dentist’s chair.

He put drops in my eye first to numb the eye and then to dilate the pupil again. He explained he would shoot light into my eye about 75 times, six to 10 beams at a time and that the procedure would take five minutes.

After the drops had time to work, he used what looked like a round lens. With one hand he held my eye open. With the other, he aimed the light into my eye without ever touching the eye.

He managed to shoot the light 25 times in a row. Then he shot just five times and hit an extremely sore spot.

Each time I shrieked, he stopped. I sat up, took a deep breath and he continued. I wasn’t counting overall blasts of light, but I think it was fewer than 75.

When he was done, everything looked black. My sight returned within a few minutes, however. After paying my double co-pays and making my follow-up appointment, I walked down to my car, put on sunglasses and drove myself back to the office.

If you have an eye problem, schedule an appointment immediately.

Who generally gets torn retinas? People 55 and older, according to the National Institute of Health. And to all the people in my office reading that, shut up.

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