Floaters (No, Not the Up-In-the-Air Kind)

If you read this blog at all, you know that I'm a photographer and a writer. My eyes are really important to me. Visual acuity is important to me. Not seeing things that aren't there is also important to me.

Rewind back to Christmas Eve 2022. I wasn't feeling well (it turns out I had the flu and was in the hotel room all day instead of hanging out with my husband's family for Christmas), but I just thought I was tired at the time.

I started seeing flashes of light in my peripheral vision of my left eye. I sometimes have visual migraines so I thought it had to do with that, even though this wasn't what happens to me typically. I took some ibuprofen and tried to rest - and not worry. After a while, when my anxiety started ramping up about what was going on, I did some online research (after all, it was Christmas Eve - no doctors) to make sure it wasn't something I had to deal with immediately.

Thankfully, it wasn't. 

Then I noticed the floaters. I didn't think too much about them at first. I've had floaters before. Never this many or this big, but it's not a new thing.

I really thought they would go away... that they would be reabsorbed (do they do that?) or my brain would learn to ignore them. More research found that usually in six months they would either go away or be bearable to deal with. 

My online searches also revealed a few OTC therapies I could try with no risk. When there was no change after a couple of months, I chose a supplement - L-Theanine - to try. It didn't help. I was already taking some other OTC supplements for my eye health since my cataract surgery so I stopped there.

After six months, I went to my eye doctor and asked if there was anything that could be done. He said that eventually, I should adjust. He may have mentioned laser therapy but if he did, he also discouraged me from going that route. I simply remember leaving the office dejected, with no hope.

Because living with it was the only option I seemed to have, I did so. It got in the way of my living as a photographer, but what could I do? I had to make do. Besides, with only one eye affected, I kept in mind that it could have been worse.

Fast-forward to January 2024. It got worse. The same thing happened in my right eye. At least this time it wasn't accompanied by the fear of earlier... I knew the signs that showed I needed to go to the doctor/ER and I wasn't "seeing" any of them.

More floaters followed. It became harder and harder to ignore them at this point. It affected editing photos and writing more than anything because when I work, I stare at two extra-large monitors. The floaters are worse when you dart your eyes from side to side, which I do constantly when I'm on the computer.

However, though work is affected the most overall, what is really unnerving is the peripheral vision issues. So many times, I think someone has come up beside me, only to find it's a floater. When driving, I have to be extra careful to make sure the lane is clear (thankfully, I have lane assist with my car!) because a floater can look like a vehicle coming up.

This issue is the biggest problem when I'm doing a photography shoot. I use my peripheral vision a lot while my face is plastered against the viewfinder. Not knowing whether something is real or not in your outer vision gets to you after a while - and makes concentrating on the photos needed harder than usual.

Speaking of "getting to you," there's one more reason that I am having a hard time with these little black specks - my mental health. I don't have a diagnosis of OCD but I definitely have some obsessions and compulsions. These and my other mental health issues make it really difficult to ignore the floaters and they can increase my anxiety (which is regularly high already). 

I'm sharing all this because, on a fluke, my mom had an optical issue where she needed a retinal specialist. I had no idea this kind of doctor existed! I took her to the doctor and realized that THEY might be able to help me.

Asking the tech, she told me that not only did they deal with floaters, the doctor we were seeing had a special interest in floaters. He has developed a website - www.floaterstories.com - that explains what's going on, its history, the impact of floaters on everyday life, and, obviously, stories of those who have experienced them.

I knew I had at least a chance of getting rid of them. This morning I went to this specialist. After several tests to measure my acuity and the amount of floaters I have, I waited nervously for the verdict.

He told me what I had feared - that he had seen much worse. However, he went on to say that a condition like this doesn't have a clinical guideline to show whether or not a person should have surgery done. It depends on the person and how much the floaters negatively impact his/her life. 

So, I was the one who got to choose. (HUGE sigh of relief!)

Needless to say (but I'm saying it anyway), I'm choosing surgery. There is a risk with any surgery, but I feel that the possibility of being free of these annoying distractions will be worth it.

I'll try to remember to do an update after it's over. Until then, I'll just be waiting and praying that it goes well - and trying not to let my anxiety rule.

(Note... I updated this story to include the journey through having floaters' surgery on both eyes. See post on July 15, 2024 to read the full account.)


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