A week ago yesterday I awoke to find I had a large black ‘floater’ in my right eye. It was like a daddy-long-legs at a window. As I moved my eye, it leapt around — sometimes in the opposite direction. It was disturbing… But I wear contact lenses and I thought maybe I had a slight eye infection.
By Monday teatime things hadn’t improved and I was feeling stressed by it. I called my doctor and was told that the earliest appointment was eleven days away. Really disgraceful… The receptionist suggested I go up to the NHS ‘walk in’ centre at Piccadilly Station which, she said, was open from 7am to 7pm.
By the time I got there, it was 6.40pm and I was told that they ‘stop booking people in’ at about 5pm. Silly me, I thought the whole point of this walk in centre was so that you didn’t have to make an appointment? It was intended for people who were on their way to, or from, work, and who don’t have time to see their doctor. But how many will have left work and be able to call in before 5pm?
The receptionist there told me about a 24 hour clinic at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. So I set off back in the direction I had just come from.
At the MRI, reception for the clinic seemed to be in accident and emergency. But the receptionist said I’d done the right thing going in, as eye problems aren’t to be taken lightly. ‘Do you still live at 28 _____?’ She asked. I moved out of there in 1987, which shows how long it is since I was last at that particular hospital department.
I’ve always had good service at the MRI and, from then on, matters moved quickly and smoothly. A nurse dilated my pupil, looked at my eye and then a doctor took a thorough look and explained what had happened.
I have a Posterior Vitreous Detachment — which sounds much worse than it is. This is where the jelly-like substance inside the eye shrinks and comes away from the retina at the back. It’s very common in elderly people, fairly common in middle age and being short-sighted (which I am) makes it even more likely to occur.
Many people never even realise it has happened. However, threads of the vitreous can be left hanging about, which is what causes the dark cobweb-like floaters.
There is really no effective and safe treatment for them. The advice from the doctor is that gradually, over a period of weeks and months, my brain will get used to the floating things and ignore them. Looking online, opinion seems to vary. Some sources say the floaters settle down below the sightline or ‘disappear’. Other sources say they never go, but the brain gets used to them. Most claim they improve. But then, as usual, there are a handful of accounts from people who say their life is plagued by them.
Considering that PVD is something that happens to 75 per cent of people over the age of 65, I’m surprised I haven’t heard about it until now…
The floaters are worse in bright light and against light-coloured plain surfaces. Currently, I’m struggling to get used to them darting about as I use the PC or read. Sometimes it’s like a fly buzzing around at the edge of my vision. It’s tiring. Though, already, they are maybe a little bit more vague. Did they change or am I getting used to them? And there are much worse things in life…
If you suddenly get a large floater as I did, if you see flashes of light or what looks like a swarm of small flies (actually blood inside your eye), or a curtain effect, it’s important to get checked out as soon as possible. In a small percentage of cases, when the vitreous comes away, it tears the retina. This can usually be fixed without a problem. However, if it isn’t attended to straight away, it can lead to complications and even blindness within ten days or so.
So, just as well I didn’t wait for my doctor to get around to seeing me…