Fun with floaters

A good representation of the floaters I’ve always had

If you’re tired of hearing about my eyes, feel free to move along. I’ll understand, since I’m tired of talking about them, thinking about them, worrying about them. It’s like I’ve had an eye obsession since my first surgery on January 9. For six months I’ve been preparing for surgery, recovering from it, having follow-up check-ups, getting sutures taken out, enduring my lifetime quota of “foreign body sensation,” keeping track of up to three different eye drops at a time, and asking innumerable questions about what’s going on. (Count your blessings; I don’t think I mentioned the pulled suture that made my eye start bleeding. You haven’t lived till the tears you’re wiping away turn out to be blood. Whee!) I’m thoroughly sick of it. But I thought it was all behind me when all the sutures were out, all the meds were stopped, and the new glasses were sitting on my nose.

Wrong. Last Sunday night I noticed a big, conspicuous new floater. Much bigger and more annoying than any I’ve had before. At first I thought there was a hair hanging in my face and tried unsuccessfully to brush it away. Then I looked to see if it was something caught on my glasses. Nope. Determined that the stray fiber thingy should not end up in my eye, I went to the bathroom for a magnifying mirror and bright light to see if some cat hair or something was hung in my lashes. Nope. Obviously, it was a floater.

my floater
My new floater looks a lot like this

This thing stretches top to bottom across the outer half of my left eye. A thready, cobwebby sort of thing with an obvious little black knot in it. When the knot snaps across my line of vision, it’s as though I’m being buzzed by a gnat.

Finally, after several days of fretting and vacillating between the conviction that it was just a harmless floater and the fear that it was an indication of a torn retina, I called the doctor yesterday and went to get it checked out. I wasn’t about to face an entire weekend of continued uncertainty. And besides, torn retinas are serious, serious business.

Long story short, it’s a harmless floater. I don’t know whether to be relieved it wasn’t associated with a torn retina or annoyed that it’s “just” a floater — meaning nothing can be done about it. Naturally it’s in my brand spankin’ new left eye, the one with 20/20 distance vision sans glasses. Not the right eye, which is slightly less perfect. Nope. Had to be the left one. Dammit.

Actually, it appears there are a couple of things that can be done about floaters. The first involves zapping them with lasers, if you feel confident letting somebody use a laser to take potshots at moving targets in your eye. My doctor scoffed at the mere mention. The other procedure is called vitrectomy, which involves letting someone puncture your eyeball and suck out the vitreous, floaters and all, and replace it with saline. Uh, no thanks. I’ve had enough eyeball puncturing.

Floaters, I’ve learned this week, are much more common in near-sighted people, which I was until six months ago; aging people, which I certainly am; cataract surgery patients, which I am; and diabetics, which I am not. Three out of four. Goodie.

I’ve always assumed everyone has floaters, even if only a few little dots or specks, probably because that’s what I’ve always had — just a few little dots or specks that are more curiosities than anything else, floating around like tiny transparent pet amoebae in the petri dishes of my eyes.

… sigh … Well, at least this is “just” a floater that may or may not fade, break up, disappear, or settle out of sight into the bottom of my eye. I’m trying not to imagine what else is about to happen to these eyes that nobody has thought to mention …

16 thoughts on “Fun with floaters

  1. Eyes! Always an interesting subject since we humans receive more of our information from that sense than any of the other four.

    Yep, I got ’em too. Comes with age, apparently. Gives me a weird awareness that the things I see are not direct knowledge but products of cerebral interpretation of data from a vulnerable source. One can be too aware.

    Lasers work. Earlier this year Mollie got a laser procedure to vaporize the “sac” which formerly held the lens in one of her eyes. Turns out that when the eye docs remove a lens in cataract surgery, they leave the sac intact because, for some reason, doing so reduces the probability of infection. It is common for the sac to turn a little cloudy eventually, as in her case. The very fact that they know this indicates to me that reputable eye doctors don’t take unproven risks. Ergo, PT, I would be inclined to let them zap that thing if it bothers you, and if they express confidence about doing so. But I gather your doc doesn’t feel that way, and if that’s the case, do no harm is the way to go.

    1. Sounds like Mollie had what’s called “secondary cataract.” I wouldn’t be surprised if I develop that sooner or later. I know the doctors can clear it with a laser, but that’s a lot more precise than trying to hit a moving floater. The scoff came from my first ophthalmologist, not the glaucoma expert who did my surgery; the surgeon might have a different opinion. I’ve read the brain learns to not see floaters, but I’ll believe that when I see it (or don’t see it). In any case, I’m in no hurry for more eye procedures.

  2. The top right image is an incredible representation! I’ve had floaters for as long as I can remember. I recall my high school biology teacher telling us about them. I just thought it was me until then. He said that most people have them and there’s nothing to worry about and it is completely normal. Now, mind you, that was my high school biology teacher back in 1981-2. But, for me anyway, it’s been exactly what he described.

    1. I was amazed at the top image too. Of all the ones I found, it came the closest to looking like the real thing. I’d always heard floaters were normal, too. But then I read that sudden big new ones could possibly be related to a retinal tear… Yeah, I’m pretty hypersensitive about my eyes right now. I’m still learning what my new normal is.

      1. Well, I’m glad you are able to see again. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I have to wonder if some things are blown out of proportion in order to get people in to spend their money (or insurance’s money) to get it checked out. I’ve heard from many others they have floaters, too, and no problems.

  3. I made my living with my eyes for years as first a photographer, then in radiology, and now photography is my main hobby and obsession. I have the start of a cataract, as most diabetics do, but so far, so good. Scary to think about losing my vision, but with my family history, I’ll probably lose my mind first :-)).

    1. LOL. My cataracts developed slowly over a period of 20 years or so, so it could be a long time before you have to do anything about them. Cataracts are fixable. I don’t know about your mind. 😉

  4. Yeah, I’ve always had these things. I can’t see them most of the time, but if I concentrate and adjust my focus, there they are. I guess I’ve just learned to ignore them. But now that you’ve brought them up, I hope they don’t start bugging me.

      1. Kinda like being aware of your tongue. Now that I’ve said that, you are, and might be for quite a while… *very* aware of your tongue.
        I’ve had floaters all of my life, kind of enjoy them since I can ignore them at will. Never had any big ones, however… I have punctured my eyeball several times, don’t recommend it. But it’s always been OK with just antibiotics and hydration….

    1. That’s what I told the doctor. I’ve been obsessed with my eyes for six months and just as I was starting to get back to normal, along comes this thing. I’m beginning to worry if the rest of my life is going to be like this.

... and that's my two cents