My personal experience with a retinal tear – floaters and flashers
My husband was in a restaurant having dinner with me. We were enjoying the third course, the dessert. Suddenly he looked down at his plate, looked up at me and said that “something was wrong”. Suddenly a floater had appeared in his eye, that he had never seen before. He was very disturbed and scared by this floater. It was clearly something new. He had little floaters in the past which he had learnt to live with, which just looked like small little tadpoles from time to time, but this floater was different. It was more solid, and he had a couple of flashing lights. He became quite anxious. It rather spoiled the dinner.
This happened at about 10.30pm on a Friday evening. I was faced with what was best to do. As an ophthalmologist this was difficult. We both had a very sleepless night, tossing and turning with him worrying. I wondered whether to take him immediately to the eye casualty or to wait until the morning. As we had got back late, around about 11.30pm, I thought it best that we wait until the morning and then I would ring the eye casualty and tell them that my husband had had a sudden onset of a floater with flashing light and we were concerned that his retina might be detaching.
Therefore I called the casualty department at the Western Eye Hospital, spoke to the on-call registrar and immediately took my husband to the Western Eye. He was triaged by the nurse and then saw the specialist doctor who took his vision, which was perfect, and then dilated his eye so he could examine the back of his retina for damage from the floaters.
He had a thorough examination of the back of the retina with various lenses including something that was called 90 dioptre lens and then 20 dioptre lens with a headlight on the surgeon’s head called an indirect ophthalmoscope. That last examination had to be done with him lying flat.
Nothing was found on that occasion, so we had a more relaxing weekend than we had had the night before, but I was still concerned as he still had the floater.
On Monday I was sitting in the theatre, because I used to work at the Western Eye Hospital, waiting to start my morning operating list and I was next to the retinal surgeon, and I said to him, would you mind awfully seeing my husband because I am a bit worried about this floater. “He is short sighted about a -5.5 dioptre sphere, and while we were having dinner on Friday, he suddenly complained of a sudden onset of a floater with a flashing light and he is really worried about it.” The retinal surgeon said, “Yes, send him around to my room privately at 5 o’clock, and I will take a good look”. I rang my husband and said, “you have to turn up at Harley Street and have your retina examined because we are still worried that you might have a retinal hole and a small detachment that has not yet affected your vision, but might be well amenable to laser treatment.” He went and saw the retinal surgeon who did what is called indenting with the indirect ophthalmoscope and found the tiny hole in the far periphery of the retina with a small operculum. An operculum means like a tin can lid opening, partly open on it and the smallest amount of subretinal fluid around it.
He then took him down to the laser and laser sealed it. My husband kept his vision. Success! No detachment, all vision preserved!
In my next blog, I will talk about what you should do if you have floaters.