I’m a British/Australian expatriate who has spent 20 years living in Asia and many more traveling the world. I was born and went to school in the UK, started my career as a journalist in the print media, but spent a large proportion of my working life in broadcasting in Australia (where I worked for Channel 7 and Channel 10) and Malaysia (where I worked for ASTRO). I retired as Secretary-General of the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union in June 2010, and am now living in the Philippines doing some media consulting through The Media Alliance and digital content production work through Banyan Media.
My consulting and production work takes up about 50 per cent of my time. For the rest of my time I am landscaping a new garden, blogging about travel and gardening, pursuing my lifelong passion for photography, and preparing to launch a new online magazine on tropical living and gardening called Tropical House & Garden. I've edited several gardening books, the most recent one being 'The Essential Guide to Growing Orchids in the Tropics' by Dr Chia Tet Fatt which was published by Marshall Cavendish and launched at the triennial World Orchid Conference in Singapore in November 2011. All but one of the photographs in that book are mine. The book is currently sold out and about to go into a reprint.
My other interests and activities include world music, natural foods, and advocacy of human rights, social justice and sustainable living. I also support, whenever I can, activities to protect the environment and combat corruption, but I feel we are losing the battle on those these days to big business and corporate lobbyists.
I recently upgraded this website to a new template and transferred most of the content across. The photo galleries are very old (10-15 years and mostly scans from prints). I have more recent galleries on Pbase under the name 'banyanman'. When I have more time I will update the galleries on this site.
When I first setup this website, the page that garnered the most hits was my story about the detached retina that I suffered in 2003. SInce publishing that story online, it has been viewed over 10,000 times, and I've received many messages from people thanking me for sharing my experience, because it has helped them to cope with their own detached retinas.
Scroll down to read that story below.
My Detached Retina Story
My Detached Retina Story
Unless you are a boxer, rugby player or eye surgeon, most people have no idea what a detached retina is. This story is about my experience with a detached retina. I have posted this for the benefit of those who do not know what the symptoms of a detached retina are (like most people, I was previously totally unaware). If I had known what the symptoms of a detached retina were before, I could have avoided what turned out to be the worst month of my life.
One in every 10,000 people gets a detached retina sometime in their lifetime. If you are short-sighted, the odds increase to something like one in 4,000 – 6,000, and if you are very short-sighted the odds are worse than that. So it’s not that an unusual occurrence. It can happen at any time in life, but the odds increase the older you are.
A detached retina is sometimes caused by a hard knock to the head (which is why boxers and rugby players know about it) but for most people it is caused by the vitreous jelly in the eye (that is the gel-like substance that fills the middle of the eye) contracting and pulling on the retina (which is like a film on the back of the eye) causing a hole or tear.
Shrinkage of the vitreous jelly occurs naturally as part of the aging process, and for most people it separates cleanly from the retina, but for a few people (like me) it doesn’t.
If a hole or tear occurs, then fluid from the vitreous space can flow through the hole or tear and push the retina away from the back of the eye. Once it is ‘detached’ from the back of the eye, that part of the retina won’t function properly, causing a blind spot.
On the night of Sunday 15 June 2003, I was driving home from the Bangsar pasar malam (night market) in Kuala Lumpur, when I started seeing a flashing light in my left eye every time I looked left or right at a road junction. It was like a bright pin point of light on the outside of the eye which would travel around the outside of the eye in about half a second each time it appeared. It was a bit worrying, but the eye felt okay, so I did nothing about it. I found out later that this was a symptom of the vitreous jelly pulling on the retina.
The next morning the flashing light had disappeared, but for the next couple of days I had black ‘floaters’ in the eye. I did a search on the Internet for eye problems and found a medical site that said floaters were quite common, and nothing to worry about, and would disappear of their own accord. I thought about going to see a doctor, but after reading the Internet write-up, decided to do nothing about it (that should be a lesson in itself).
I found out later that flashing lights followed by black floaters was a symptom that a hole or tear may have occurred in the retina and should be treated as a medical emergency. I was told that if I had gone to a hospital emergency room that morning, the hole could have most likely been sealed using a laser, preventing it from developing into a detached retina, and that would have saved me the pain and suffering of what I was about to go through.
On the Thursday morning the eye had cleared a bit but there was a static and somewhat larger black patch in the bottom of the eye. It was at that stage I started thinking that I ought to see a doctor, and that morning whilst I was at the office I checked on the Internet for some names of ophthalmologists. I found one at the Pantai hospital, which was close to where I worked. However, I was very busy that day and decided to put off making an appointment until the following morning. I found out later that the black patch was where the retina had started detaching.
That night when I was driving home from work, I suddenly became aware that I had completely lost the sight of the bottom right hand corner of my eye. I had dinner scheduled that night with some guests from CNN, including one of CNN’s correspondents Nic Robertson whom I knew would have some interesting experiences to talk about from his recent stint in Afghanistan, so I decided to put off going to the hospital until the morning, because there was no pain or discomfort in the eye.
That was a very foolish decision because I found out later that what I was experiencing was a major detachment of the retina.
The following morning I called the ophthalmologist and made an appointment to go over. Fortunately he was able to fit me in fairly quickly. He examined the eye and took less than five minutes to diagnose that I had a detached retina. He said it was serious, and I needed immediate surgery.
I was initially quite shocked and aghast at the idea of having surgery on my eye – especially in Malaysia (although later I realised that I was very lucky this didn’t happen a week later when I was supposed to be in Bangladesh). I told the ophthalmologist that I had a brother-in-law in Australia who was an eye surgeon, and suggested that perhaps I could go there so that he could carry out the surgery. The doctor looked at me and said: “I am sorry. You don’t have time to go to Australia . This is an emergency. If you are not operated on today, you may lose the sight of your eye permanently”.
He then went on: “I only operate on the front of the eye. Ophthalmic surgeons these days tend to specialise in either the front of the eye or the back of the eye. I am going to refer you to a very good surgeon at Gleneagles Hospital (which was on the other side of the city) who operates on the back of the eye.” He then asked me to wait outside whilst he called the other surgeon. A few minutes later he called me in and said he had spoken to Dr Tony Leong who would see me as soon as he had finished an operation that he was about to go into. He said: “Now I want you to get over there as soon as possible. In fact I am not even going to charge you for this consultation, because I don’t want you hanging around here waiting to pay a bill. Just go!” That drove home the urgency of the situation. A doctor who didn’t want to be paid!
I realised later in the day how true the doctor’s words were. By the time I was being wheeled into the operating theatre at Gleneagles Hospital just after 3.30pm , I had lost over 60% of the sight of my left eye, including the central vision. The retina was peeling off, and within a few hours I could have lost 100% of my sight. After that, reattaching the retina and restoring vision is a much harder task.
Dr Leong wanted to operate on me immediately I got to Gleneagles Hospital , but because it was going to be under general anaesthesia, they needed to wait for 7-8 hours after I had last eaten or drunk any liquids. I’d had breakfast at 8am and a cup of coffee at 9am , so they booked the operating theatre for 4 pm (the ophthalmologist had told me not to eat or drink anything once he had arranged the referral to Dr Leong).
Before I went into the operating theatre I asked Dr Leong what the eye would feel like when I woke up. He said: “My patients tell me it feels like you’ve been kicked in the face by a horse.” Great! That’s all I needed to hear! But actually it helped to keep my mind off the operation. As I lay on the operating table, and as they stuck the needle into my arm and put the oxygen mask over my face, and I gradually lost consciousness, I was more worried about how I was going to feel when I woke up than I was about the actual operation or the general anaesthetic.
It took me a long time to wake up from the general anaesthetic. The operation was nearly two hours and I recall the doctor telling me that everything had gone well, but I have little recollection of being wheeled back to my room until I eventually opened my right eye sometime between 7 and 8pm. I came out of the general anaesthetic well with no nausea, and surprisingly there was no pain from the eye – although, as I was to find out later, that was only due to the painkillers they had given me.
For the next 15 hours I had to lie flat on my back and not move the head. This was not too bad for the first few hours, except that I was very thirsty. As I could not drink lying down, I had to hold a straw to my mouth and suck a little water at a time and let it trickle down the throat. It took several hours to quench my thirst.
After a few hours I started to feel pain in the eye. It was not at all like the doctor had suggested (being kicked in the face by a horse) – it was like someone sticking needles into the eye. The doctor told me later it was the stitches causing this pain, but as they softened over the next few days, the pain would subside. But it was not the pain in the eye that would prove to be the worst consequence of the operation – it was the pain in the back.
After about six hours of not moving, my back started to ache like I had never experienced before. It became so painful that I was almost screaming. During the night I asked the nurses to give me more painkillers intravenously (because I couldn’t sit up to take any medication) but they said they couldn’t do that without the doctor’s permission. They said they had tried to contact him but there was no answer from his phone numbers, and he hadn’t returned their calls from any of the messages they had left. It was the most painful night I have experienced in my life.
In the morning the doctor came and said there had been a misunderstanding. He said I could have sat up momentarily to take painkillers orally, but apparently the night staff had misunderstood why I was asking for intravenous painkillers - because they didn’t speak very good English. So I had gone through a night of excruciating pain for nothing!
He said from that point on I could get up to go to the bathroom, take medication or eat, as long as it wasn’t more than five minutes in an hour. After that I was able to get some relief from the back pain by sitting up for a few minutes, although I must confess there were a few hours when the pain was so bad that I sat up for closer to 10 minutes than five minutes.
This went on for three days. After the first day the doctor took the bandages off the eye and said I was making good progress. I could see that the retinal detachment had reduced back to the 25% I’d had on the day before the operation, and my central vision had been restored (although it was very blurry). On the second day, there was little further improvement, and the doctor told me that if it didn’t improve by the third day, I would have to have a second operation - actually it was only what they call a 'procedure' - where they injected a bubble of gas into the eye to hold the vitreous fluid against the retina.
He explained that he had used a freezing technique called cryoretinopexy to seal the area around the retinal tear at the back of the eye and had stitched a ‘radial 4mm sponge’ (which he referred to as a ‘plastic buckle’) onto the eyeball to help it press onto the area where the retina had detached, but there was always an element of luck in whether that worked without any further intervention.
On the third day he said that some fluid had accumulated again behind the retina, so I had no option but to have a bubble of sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) gas injected into the eye to try and push the retina into place from the other direction.
That afternoon I was wheeled back into the operating theatre for the SF6 injection. It only took five minutes and was done under local anaesthetic. It wasn't painful, just uncomfortable, but the worst part was seeing all the needles going into your eye (you have to keep both eyes open during the procedure) first for the local anaesthetic and then for the gas bubble.
I still shudder when I think of the surgeon’s hand descending on my eye holding the needles, each time saying “Now don’t move, it is important that you keep your head very still”. Easier said than done when someone is putting needles into your open eye!
Back in the ward, I now had to sit up holding my head upright, but tilted forward and to one side in order to hold the gas bubble in the right position. I could no longer lie down because if the gas bubble was to rest on the optic nerve, it could do permanent damage to my eyesight. So that night I suffered a very stiff neck and backache from having to sit up all night with my head cocked to one side (the opposite problem to the first operation!) I realised how important it is for our backs to be able to move when sleeping.
For the next 24 hours, I kept my fingers crossed, because if the gas bubble didn’t work, then I would have to have more invasive surgery called a vitrectomy which would involve cutting out the vitreous gel from the eye, and which carried much greater risks of bleeding and infection, and of cataracts forming, than was the case with the surgery performed to date.
The next day, to my great relief, he told me that the gas bubble was supporting the retinal tear well, and that I would not have to have a vitrectomy and I could now leave hospital – but that I would have to sleep sitting up, with my head tilted forward and to one side, for the next week until the gas was completely absorbed into the eye.
The doctor said it would take about a week for the gas bubble to disappear, but it actually took nearly three weeks. The first night home I could only sleep for 10 minutes, but eventually I got so tired that after a few days I was sleeping 5-6 hours a day in short sessions at a time. When walking around I had to keep my head tilted forward, so I couldn’t do much for three weeks except stare at the floor. Those were definitely the most boring three weeks of my life!
By the end of the three weeks, I was actually sleeping eight hours straight at night, propped up in a chair with my arms hanging over four large pillows like a rag doll to keep my head in the right position. When the gas bubble in my eye eventually disappeared, and the doctor told me I could go back to sleeping on a bed, I thought I was going to have the best night's sleep in my life - but I couldn't sleep at all! I had actually got so used to sleeping in a chair, I had to go through a reverse adjustment phase in order to be able to sleep on a bed again. It is amazing how the body adjusts. Maybe I should have stayed sleeping in a chair and then I would have been able to have good nights' sleep when doing long overnight flights.
The gas bubble procedure caused my retina to reattach (although vision was still quite blurred after a month) but not long after leaving hospital I did have a problem with some scar tissue from the first operation dropping to the bottom of the eye – which could have pulled the retina off again.
I had to have the eye checked every day, and at one stage I thought I was going to have to have a vitrectomy after all. I was advised that the vitrectomy would be done under local anaesthetic, which meant I would have seen everything that happens. I felt very queasy just thinking about it, but fortunately the scar tissue didn’t cause any problems in the ensuing weeks and I escaped having to have the vitrectomy.
However, I did have problems in the following few months with new holes appearing in other parts of the retina (these were picked up during the routine eye check-ups or when I noticed a sudden increase in floaters (which are actually specks of blood in the eye). These had to be treated by argon laser to ‘weld’ up the holes by burning the tissue around the hole in order to create scar tissue that would hold the retina in place. In all I had about ten bouts of laser treatment after leaving hospital to seal small holes or tears in the retina. The first session was terribly painful, and a few of the subsequent ones were too. I recall one session where my head was not properly strapped to the machine and I was sitting on a chair with roller castors. One of the laser bursts hit a nerve in the back of the eye, and it was so painful that I pulled my head back from the machine with so much force that the chair (with me on it) traveled several metres across the room! Normally your head is strapped to the machine so that this doesn’t happen, but not all doctors bother to strap you in.
Over the next three months I had over 1,000 laser welds performed on the back of the eye (the doctor told me it looked like a lunar landscape through his opthalmoscope) including some performed in Bangkok and Bonn (Germany) when I was there on business and noticed increases in the floaters.
Several people have asked what it is like to have the argon laser welds performed on the eye. It is difficult to describe because the pain is not like I have experienced in any other part of the body. It is not an excruciating pain, but is quite unpleasant if the doctor turns the power up high. I did not experience much pain from the laser that I had done in Bangkok, but that was because the doctor there used quite a low power setting – and when I returned to Kuala Lumpur my regular doctor insisted on reinforcing it with some more laser at a higher power. Because the pain is experienced at the back of the eye, it is not possible to use an anaesthetic, so you have to grin and bear it. Someone once asked me whether it was a sharp pain or a dull pain. It actually feels like a cross between the two. Fortunately the pain occurs only for the duration of the laser burst (a fraction of a second) but it is accompanied by a very bright green light which is uncomfortable in itself. Not every laser burst causes pain. At a relatively high setting, perhaps one in three bursts is painful – but you get nervous wondering whether the next one is going to be a painful one or not!
When the doctor in Bonn examined me, he said it looked like there were more retinal tears about to happen. When I got back to Kuala Lumpur (by then it was September), my eye surgeon said I had two choices. One was to take it easy for the next six months (with no travel) and go to the hospital to have the retina sealed with a laser every time a new tear occurs (least risky and least painful option), or the other option is to have the retina sealed with a laser 360 degrees around the outside to stop any retinal detachment occurring when I get new retinal tears (which would enable me to travel as it wouldn’t be so urgent to have the tears fixed).
He told me that the 360 degree treatment is quite painful and has to be done in two half hour sessions because it is difficult to stand the pain to have it done in one session. It is also a bit risky (risk of internal bleeding etc) so he insisted that I get a second opinion before considering the second option.
I told the doctor I had no choice but to take the second option as my job requires me to travel extensively and it is not an option for me to just stop traveling for six months. It would also mean that if a hole or tear appeared whilst I was in a country like Afghanistan, I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to get treatment in a place where there might not be any retinal specialists with the right equipment.
The following day I went to see Dr Seshan Lim, the consultant surgeon to whom Dr Leong had referred me. Dr Leong said he was one of the two best eye surgeons in Malaysia. Dr Lim subjected me to a very thorough examination (which was a bit uncomfortable because he was pushing the eyeball in all directions with a metal instrument, which Dr Leong never used to do). At the conclusion of the examination, he told me that he wasn’t satisfied that the benefits of doing a 360 degree weld would offset the risks of the procedure, and recommended against doing it.
As it turned out, I didn’t have any more problems with the eye after that time, so it was lucky for me that he recommended against that procedure.
I learnt from all these visits to different doctors that eye surgery is a very inexact science. It is not uncommon to find doctors giving different opinions on the same condition. A good example of that is the fact that the German doctor (who was a consultant in a specialist eye hospital) told me that the retina in my right eye was deteriorating, and that I would experience a retinal detachment in that eye in a very short time (it is apparently quite common for the second eye to experience a retinal detachment within two years of the first eye).
However, when I reported that to my Malaysian doctor, he completely disagreed saying there was no sign of any deterioration in the retina. That was nearly two years ago, and I have not had any trouble with the right eye yet.
A lot of people still ask me these days how my eye is. It is actually not very good, but it is strange that you never think about it until people ask you about it. That is because you get used to the condition. There is no pain or discomfort (I still have the buckle in it, but really wouldn’t know it was there) but the vision in the left eye is definitely not as good as it used to be.
I still get the occasional flashing lights in my left eye (these are more up and down now, rather than around the eye) and my doctor tells me this is a sign that the vitreous jelly in the eye is still pulling on the retina. But because my retina has been so well ‘welded’ to the back of the eye, he thinks it is unlikely any more holes will develop now. Some eye doctors will tell you that the process of the vitreous jelly contracting (which is called a ‘posterior vitreous detachment’) takes less than six months, but the fact that I am still experiencing flashes after nearly two years means that for some people it takes longer.
After the operations, my surgeon told me that my sight should improve to close to what it was before the retinal detachment in about three months. But after three months when it was still blurry, he said it might take six months. Then after six months, he said he might take a year. After a year, he admitted it might never improve, saying that the extent of recovery varied from person to person.
When I take an eye test these days, I can read the letters on the eye chart with the left eye one line up from what I used to, but everything is a little blurry and lines are not straight – they are always wavy. I feel like I am looking through a pane of glass in which there is water in the middle. As well, there are always a few floaters in the eye – not the black spots that I used to experience when the holes in the retina appeared, but more like small semi-transparent threads floating around in the eye.
However, when using both eyes, the vision problems in the left eye become almost unnoticeable. It seems that my brain is taking most of its input from the right eye and using the left eye just to provide the depth of field. I have got so used to the condition that it doesn’t worry me anymore. The only thing that would worry me is if I suffered a retinal detachment in the right eye too. As it is now nearly two years since the retinal detachment in my left eye, I am keeping my figures crossed that the luck I have experienced to date extends to not having a second detached retina. After two years I will be out of the danger period, and every year after that without any problems being experienced in the right eye improves my odds that I won’t experience a detached retina in that eye as well.
Despite the pain and discomfort I went through, I realise that I have been lucky. The surgeon that I had in Malaysia was very good. I had my eye checked in Australia in 2004 by a specialist who is reputed to be one of the best in the country – and he said the Malaysian surgeon had done a very good job.
A few months after coming out of hospital, I found a support group on the Internet at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/detached-retina and reading about some of the experiences and suffering that other people with detached retinas had gone through (some having multiple operations and years of complications), I realised that mine had been a relatively simple case and I had escaped many of the complications that can arise from eye operations.
The reason for posting my story on my website is simply to alert others to the warning signs of a detached retina. It is not as uncommon as most people would think, and if it happens to you and you can recognise the symptoms early enough, you may be able to avoid a lot of what I went through.
If you experience flashing lights in your eye, followed by black floaters, do get it checked out as soon as you can, but if you see any black patches in the eye, then you must treat it as a medical emergency. You will feel no pain or discomfort, but don’t delay – get yourself to an eye doctor or a hospital as soon as you can.
A good website where you can learn more about detached retinas (and some of the other causes of detached retinas apart from aging) is at http://www.sightwise.org
My luck with the right eye did not hold out. Last month when I was in the Philippines, I started to experience flashing in that eye too. A couple of days after that I suddenly noticed the eye full of tiny black floaters – like specks of black pepper, thousands of them. I went straight to an eye specialist who examined the eye and said that I had started the posterior vitreous detachment in that eye, but there was no retinal tear or hole yet. He said that the black floaters were specks of blood and that I had probably suffered a very small hemorrhage of one of the tiny blood vessels in the eye as the vitreous jelly was pulling on the retina. He said that he could not laser anything – because there needs to be a hole or tear to laser – but suggested I observe the symptoms in the eye closely, and come back for another check-up if there was a noticeable increase in the floaters.
A few days later I flew up to Baguio in an unpressurised aircraft at 10,000 feet, and when I landed I noticed an increase in floaters as well as a thick black line in the upper part of the eye. That worried me because it was not moving, so was not a floater, and I wondered whether it was a retinal tear. After about an hour the black line disappeared, so that relieved my worry somewhat.
When I returned to Manila I had the eye checked again and this time the doctor found a retinal tear in exactly the position where I had seen the black line. He surmised that the flap of the tear had reattached itself through gravity to the retina because it was on the bottom of the eye (if you see it at the top it is on the bottom) and that was why I had stopped seeing it.
He sealed the tear up with three rows of laser around it (I had forgotten after two and a half years how uncomfortable that was!) and recommended that I not fly for three or four days until the scar tissue had formed properly to help ensure that it did not develop into a detached retina (because the change in air pressure affects the pressure inside the eye).
I cancelled a trip I was about to make to Cebu, and rested in Manila for four days, and then returned to Kuala Lumpur, hoping that the flight wouldn’t cause any problems.
I had my eye checked immediately on return by Dr Lim (by this stage Dr Leong had moved to the UK to take up a position there) and he said the laser treatment done in Manila had sealed up the tear well, and there were no new tears as a result of the flight back. In fact he said he believed that flying didn’t make any difference to whether you would experience retinal tears or not, which was a contrary opinion to what the doctor in the Philippines had expressed. This seemed to be another example of doctors not agreeing on what causes retinal tears. I remember Dr Leong had told me back in 2003 that he thought the change in pressure when flying might have an effect, but it hadn’t been proven.
The one thing that all the doctors do agree on though is that lifting heavy weights causes pressure in the eye that can cause retinal tears. So at the moment I am trying my best to avoid lifting anything heavy so not to aggravate the condition. My eye is still flashing a lot, and it is full of floaters (both the pepper-like ones and the larger translucent ones that look like eye lashes floating around in the eye) so it is going through a very active posterior vitreous detachment.
Each night before I go to bed, and each morning when I wake up, I stand in front of a bright white wall and look carefully around the perimeter of the eye for any signs of a black line or black patch that is not moving which would indicate a new retinal tear. Spotting the one in Baguio, and getting it sealed up quickly, undoubtedly saved it from developing into a detached retina. I hope I can do that for any other tears that develop.
Other than that, I am just keeping my fingers crossed.
It is now the last week of March – three months after the retinal tear in my right eye – and I haven’t had any more problems with it other than a slight increase in floaters. It is still flashing a lot (which my doctor says is unusual because a vitreous detachment normal only takes about two months to complete) so I will continue to be careful about lifting any heavy weights.
Tomorrow I start traveling by air again, so I hope the doctors who say this doesn’t affect the eye are right. I don’t want to be the guinea pig that proves them wrong.
After more than three months of regular traveling by air, I am still experiencing flashing in the right eye, but fortunately no tears. So last week I went for a check-up with Dr Lim. His diagnosis was that all was well, and my chances of getting a detached retina in the right eye were now “0.01 per cent”. That was very reassuring. “I don’t need to see you again,” he said. That was even more reassuring.
I was about to take my leave, when Dr Lim added “but we'd better check your eye pressure before you go”. Just as well he did, because he discovered that the intraocular pressure in both eyes was elevated – especially in the left eye in which I had had most of the surgery. He explained that glaucoma – the medical term for elevated pressure in the eye – was a not uncommon side effect of eye surgery. He prescribed some Timolol eye drops which he said should keep the pressure under control. A few months later, when I went back for an eye check-up, he found the pressure in the left eye still a little high, so prescribed some Xalatan drops for that eye. Since then I have found that a drop of Timolol in both eyes twice a day, and one drop of Xalatan in the left eye once a day keeps my intraocular pressure under control.
So Dr Lim's comment that he didn't need to see me again was a little premature, but at least pressure checks on the eye are quick and easy to do, and don't require dilating the eye.
It’s now more than seven years since my first eye surgery and everything is under control. I’ve had no further retinal detachments and am keeping my glaucoma under control with the eye drops. The only other complication has been the early development of cataracts. I was warned about that by Dr Leong way back in 2003. He told me that eye surgery sometimes causes accelerated cataract formation. Now seven years later I have a moderate cataract in the left eye and a minor cataract in the right eye, but at this stage they are not affecting my sight enough to justify cataract surgery. My brother-in-law (the Australian eye surgeon) gave me a check-up a few days ago when I was in Townsville, and he told me that cataracts don’t develop at an even pace – sometimes they get worse in quite a short time, but sometimes they don’t get worse for many years – so it’s hard to say when I will need the left eye done.
So life goes on. My eyesight has not improved since the eye surgery, but it has not got any worse. I can read the second line from the bottom of a standard eye chart with my right eye and the third line from the bottom with my left eye. In the last seven years I have made about50-70 flights a year, so it does appear that flying does not aggravate the condition – although I am convinced that flying in that unpressurised aircraft in the Philippines in 2006 contributed to the slight detachment that I suffered in the right eye.
If you are reading this because you have experienced a detached retina, and you found this through an Internet search, then I hope my story has been of some help to you.
You may wish to also browse my guestbook below (please scroll down past the comments form) as many readers have commented on their own experiences with detached retinas there.
If you wish to leave a comment or question about my experience with a detached retina, or wish to add comments about your own experiences for the benefit of other readers, please do so using the form below. Your comments/questions will be added to the guestbook after moderation.
I found your 'post' interesting to read! I was at work when my detachment occurred and I thought it was something else!
I went directly to the local hospital But they didn't t find it and gave me drops which I used daily.
I later on went to see my GP who referred me again to the hospital, I then saw a Specialist who was Brilliant But by the time I was examined at Moorfields, it was too late!
Incidentally I am also deaf in the same side as the 'bad' eye!
So the moral of the story is seek help if in doubt!
Regards. P C D
June 18, 2015 | Peter Duckett
My eye surgeon was adamant that you should not fly if the gas bubble had not been completely absorbed. Something to do with the gas expanding with the pressurization of the aircraft. I guess if it was a very small bubble left, it might not be a problem, but if it is anything other than small, I'd be very wary about flying.
Regards . . . David
March 22, 2015 | David Astley
I had surgery forRD 2 weeks ago under local anaesthetic I had to sit upright for first week only, I had gas bubble in eye and I am still aware of it, at my appointment yesterday doc said things were progressing well I told him I had a holiday booked in 2 weeks time (flying) he said it should be ok but my problem is what if I am still aware of gas bubble what will I experience when I fly, I am a nervous flyer at best of times.
March 18, 2015 | Marilyn
Thank you David for sharing your experience with your eyes. Also, all others telling their stories. I am a 53 yr old guy, who from 12/29/14 to 1/26/15 had a retina detachment and 3 tears corrected by
laser and freezing. All that in less than a month. 1/18/15, no new tears but am scared to death more will appear and I worry about my other eye.
I have severe anxiety and am having trouble coping with this even with my good diagnosis today. I coach two sports year round and live a very active life. Just don't know what to do. Dr. keeps saying odds are so small of having more tears but they keep appearing. Oh well, I will push on and take it day by day like the people here seem to be doing. Good luck and healthy eyes to all.
January 29, 2015 | mark
Thank you for sharing your experience. I also had vitreomacular traction. Mine appeared rather quickly but I did not have the flashing or floaters. I am an artist and suddenly noticed when doing detail work that I had lost vision in my right eye. It had progressed to a full macular hole. It was 20/20 one year prior at my exam. Being in my 60's I'm just the right age for this. Odd that my left eye and brain compensated for this until I tried some detail work. I couldn't even see the large E on the snellen chart. Only the peripheral vision remained. My hole was too large for the new jetrea shot but I also was told that leaves you with everything looking yellow permanently--unacceptable for an artist. Eleven days after vitrectomy I could see a blurry 20/70. The doctor was pleased-- I was scared and grieving my loss. Now Five weeks after surgery I am sure my vision has improved much more and my "home testing" makes me think my eye exam next week will show perhaps something near 20/40ish. I do have trouble with the green street signs if looking only with that eye. But black on white is easier because of the contrast. I do not yet have a corrective distance lense as I have only needed for reading in the past and it is best to wait a bit as there is, hopefully, more improvement to come. The six days face down because of the gas bubble really wasn't as bad as I thought but I was glad when it was over. I used a massage chair and a donut in bed at might. A mirror on the spa chair allowed watching TV. I had a large number of tiny black floaters, like knats, after the gas bubble disappeared that were most predominant when looking at the sky. Much of that is gone, only a trace left. Lots of progress over the last five weeks and I understand the first six months has lots of healing and even minor improvements up to 2 or 3 years later. My biggest fear is what if this happens to my left eye. Doctor gave me a testing device to look through daily to monitor any changes. He says there is only a ten percent chance. It was shocking to have this happen but I try to keep it in perspective and separate that out and allow myself to be grateful for an excellent surgeon and the eyesight that is being preserved. That is essential. We cannot change what has happened. I now take vitamin C and multivitamin to help with healing and healthy eye and am eating lots of foods that provide vitamin A. To those of you experiencing this, have lots of patience. Your eye will take some time to heal and everyone will be different. Do not lose hope. All is not lost. Get a good surgeon and do it quickly. Do not delay.
September 4, 2014 | Carol M
I can recommend the Rutnin Eye Hospital on Asok Montri Road in Bangkok, Ritva. I had my right eye lasered there once when I noticed a tear developing whilst traveling in Thailand. The facilities are modern and the doctors seemed competent. It is within walking distance of the Phetchburi MRT station. Their website is www.rutnin.com
August 16, 2014 | David Astley
Hi David and all following this blog
I have just received 4th laser treatment "stiching" to my left eye. I had symptoms already in June and was checked by an opthalmologist here in Kathmandu Nepal but due to lack of appropriate equipment the tear went unnoticed until I went to Finland (my home country) for second opinion. I have been severely myopic almost all my life so retinal problems have been in my knowledge as long as I remember, and this is lucky as I insisted that something was not right hence travelled for a second opinion.. There was a clear tear which was lasered trice and I was allowed to return to Kathmandu where I live. However, now two weeks later I had to seek advice from a retinal specialist here and laser was renewed once again.
I would need advice from readers who live in India (Delhi) or Thailand (Bangkok) about good international standard facilities that can treat retinal detachment IF I ever need treatment for that (India and Thailand are within relatively easy reach from here). I am a nurse by profession and want to be prepared, and know that laser and cryo can be done here but for anything more complicated I need to go out of the country. I have googled Delhi and Bangkok facilities however, as they are in hundreds, and as I am new to the region it is very difficult to know whom to contact. I would like to find a consultant and hospital and make an intial contact just in case if I ever need help. .
Thanking you in advance for possible advice
and David - yet your article is already some years old I truly benefiited from reading it. Thank you for sharing your experience.
August 15, 2014 | Ritva Jantti
Many thanks for the resume over Your experience ofa RD. I had my RD in feb 2014 and at that time did not know anything. google and found out that it was normal for my sex and age ( male 66 y). But it was not right at all.it was totally wrong and I have my RD sealed by lazer and had also gaz injection three times. After 4 months still having problems as it is not attatched in a right way. I have unfortunally did to much sport during the healing period which have caused more problems. Now the doctor ( DocCaihita Cebu, philippines)who seems very good like to change from gaz to silicon oil. I try to find out if that is the right way..I have still some 20% ofmygaz injection inmy eye and liket to take a flight back to sweden for more eye treatment but as I can see I have to wait to at least 90% of the gaz bubble is away from the eye.It also seems important which gaz injection I have (mixrure) and important seems also to be which sort of aircraft I will go with as they have different cabin air pressure. I do not know but I will prob go with a boing 777 300 and than Airbus 380. Probably the best choice as thouse aircraft are new and high ranked. Butso many thinks that was unknown and now taking over my life. I have tried to find a way back to eruopeby trans sibirian train russia vladivostok to sweden but I have just air flight connection from Philippine to Vladivostok..Anyhow many thanks to allofYou for your stories thatgive mystrenght to try to find out a good solution with my new lifestyle..
June 12, 2014 | Ove Ohlund
Thanks for your blog, David. I am sitting here waiting to hear news about my husband, and his retina surgery. It is very stressful. I was wondering about airplane travel causing retina tears, and I am very happy to hear that you have been traveling by air since your surgery. Travel is a big part of my husband's job and he had just gotten home prior to having the symptoms. Of course I was putting two and two together thinking about air pressure and fearing that he would not be able to fly anymore, which would seriously impact his job. Not good to find a new job when you are 50. I am also worrying about the fact that he reads things up really close off of his smartphone all the time, and I was thinking maybe that would worsen his nearsighted problem. I already know that nearsighted people get retina problems.
Anyway, it is useful to read posts by people who are doing okay and living with this problem, because it helps me get through this particular moment when I am really upset. God bless you, and I hope you stay well.
November 3, 2013 | Amy
Hi Helen. Soreness of the eye is not usually a symptom of a retinal tear (they are usually completely painless) so it could well be something else you are suffering from. However, to be on the safe side, until you get a proper check-up, don't do any heavy lifting. If you are experiencing a retinal tear, that will aggravate it. Other household chores, reading, watching TV, etc. won't aggravate it. But if you suddenly experience black floaters in conjunction with the bright flashes, or see a black patch anywhere within your field of vision, then get yourself to an emergency room as soon as you can.
July 14, 2013 | David Astley
Thank you for your clear and concise information on retina tear. I
had just replaced my glasses for shortsightedness when I noticed flashing in my left eye and floaters. It was on a Friday, and I just carried on as usual thinking it was a reaction to the new lenses. Then my eye became sore and the flashes brighter and I became worried, and I began reading the internet information and blogs so went back to Optomitrist the next morning ( Saturday) . He said to test whether I could see my fingers wriggling out of the left and right side of my face, and if it got worse over the weekend to immediately go to a hospital. While I realise it was busy, being a country town, and he did some tests and said he would send a referral to my GP ' I would like to know what I should or should not be doing. I run my own home, should I be cleaning, chopping the wood for the fire, wearing the new glasses, driving the car, watching TV, reading etc?
I would be grateful for some interim feed back.
July 14, 2013 | Helen Turner
To Charlie and all of you. Thank you so much for your support. My cardiologist approved me for general anesthetic and my pulmonologist "prepared" me for surgery with a lot of updraft treatments (3/day plus 4 inhalers - all the same medicine). Two weeks later, my surgery went like a charm! After several weeks of head-down position and side position, a lot of trips back to the surgeon and some laser therapy/surgery he finally said "attached retina"! I asked him to repeat that and he admitted that he had been having his reservations also; but my retina is now completely attached.. What a thrill!!! Later, I had to go back to the pulmonologist for a breath test and it showed that I am in final stages of COPD. He didn't give me a prognosis of time, but my g.p. did. His comment was "Well you might live a year if you're lucky". I assumed that he was just in a mood because he was upset that I had had the surgery after so many others had labeled me "not a candidate for surgery". He was really upset when he found out about it. His remark really threw me for a loop and anxiety kicked in causing severe itching all over my body. I could count the hrs of sleep I've had in the last couple of weeks on one hand. Went to a different doctor for that though and he has really been working with me. The latest treatment being prednisone seems to be helping - I slept most of last night! The itching is subsiding. Fact is , howerver, the shortness of breath is not. I don't know how much time I have left; but with oxygen and good eyesight, I will be able to see it through and maybe get things in order before my time is up. Our 50th anniversary is in July and I hope to make it to then. The doctor I am going to now said "when you reach that goal, you can set another". I hope he's right. Wow! it has been a busy 4 mos for me but is wonderful to see..:-)
Thank you again for the support.................Barb
March 18, 2013 | Barb
Thank you so much for your web site. I have had two surgeries in two weeks time from a detached retina in my left eye I had the band and gas bubble first. I then spent a week laying flat on my face. I ended up having a second laser and oil surgery last week because my retina did not completely reattach. My retina is now 100% reattached. However, I have to have a third surgery to take the oil out in 2 to 3 months. My vision in my left eye is not good now. I was in a car accident. A lady accidentally rear ended me. It took a week and a half before I noticed any vision problems. Before the accident I had perfect vision in both eyes. It's hard to have to go through such a life changing event like this. I'm fairly young and travel a lot with my career as well. I'm also a young mother and I love to jog. I miss doing normal everyday things. I keep telling myself I will get better. Also my right eye still has perfect vision so I am grateful. The one thing I have learned is that life can change in an instant and we cannot take things for granted. Thank you again for your web site. Reading your experience has been most helpful. I wish you the best and I will keep you and other folks like us in my prayers.
December 16, 2012 | Shelley l
Many thanks for sharing your experience about retinal detachment (RD). I had RD surgury a few weeks ago and your blog has been a great source of information for me. One more thing i will like to know is your work life and productivity after the RD surgury as a journalist. I am a young researcher and a writer. I read and write alot almost everyday. I am wonder if i could still continue to do this or i need to be cautious. I think your experience would really be helpful.
December 13, 2012 | uma
Hope u can read this. had my retina detachment done 2 days ago; am in the facedown position now for two wks or more. hope not much more. just wanted u all to know i msfe i. wukk ket u know more when i can type,,,TY zll
December 2, 2012 | barb
Can I just ask if you were ever advised to take vitamin/mineral supplements for your eyes? There is loads on the 'net' of course but Lutein and Zeaxanthin come up a lot as does Vit. A and zinc. Unsure whether these are for retinal health or more connected with AMD...........or just for general eye health. Someone recommended iCaps to me!! Any comment on this? Thanks
November 27, 2012 | Kathy
Sorry barb, I meant I had my detached retina repaired under LOCAL anaesthetic and by the sounds of it our detachment were similar (I had a curtain shadows coverin about half my vision) might be worth asking about. Also I think argon is mainly used for tears and small repairs, I had lots of tears repaired in my left eye (FYI, it was more uncomfortable than the operation!!)
November 21, 2012 | Charlie
ps although it doesn't hurt so much as to be unbearable! I'm not trying to scare you. It's nothing like, say, an abscessed tooth. THAT hurts. This is painful and uncomfortable but bearable and short-lived. So don't be afraid!
November 21, 2012 | T Hartwig
Hi Barb, I'm sorry, I should have elaborated. When I had my two retinal detachments due to vitreous separation, my retinal surgeon used argon laser to basically weld the tears back together. It's worth asking about, altho I must warn you that yes, it hurts - you are awake for the procedure, they numb the outside of the eye, but that laser does hurt, although I was told my reaction was atypical.
anyway do ask if laser retinal surgical repair is an option. I think I lucked out. All the best!
November 21, 2012 | T Hartwig
I'm not sure what argon laser is...Will look it up..Thank You.
November 21, 2012 | Barb
Barb, I had my retinal detachment done with argon laser, no anesthetic required. Is this not an option for you?
November 20, 2012 | T Hartwig
Charlie - Thank you for responding. My problem with general anesthetic is my lungs. My COPD is a combination of asthma and emphysema. I also have a herniated diaphragm which means that my stomach is taking a lot of space in my lungs (it's in the wrong place). It's hard to detect but was caught on an x-ray about 3 yrs ago. Usually a person is born with it, Back in my day though, they probably didn't check for it or know how to do the surgery to fix it. My brother was born with the same problem, but they found his when he was in his 20's and were able to do major surgery, removing his stomach and other parts and then putting them back where they belonged. He was not expected to live long. Amazingly, it's the two of us out of six who have lived the longest. He passed away at 75! Sibling-rivalry :) I was hoping I could outllast him. Thank you again for your response.....Barb
November 20, 2012 | Barb
Hi Barb, sorry to hear you are having such a rotten time. I had my retinal detachment fixed under general anaesthetic, is this not an option for you? It sounds awful but it's really not that bad. I too had a detachment in my right... This happened to me last December at the age of 21!! I wish you all the best in whatever you decide x
November 20, 2012 | Charlie
I need help. 14 mos ago I had cataract surgery in both eyes. At the time, I was told that I also had a "slow" eye; when I turned my eyes to the side, one of them was slow to come back in line with the other. When my blurriness started, I assumed it was because of that. Then the floaters started. They looked like so many fruit flies that I threw out some perfectly good bananas:). Then there were the light flashes and I realized something was really wrong. Tried to make an appointment with the cataract surgeon but couldn't get in for three months. Went to my optomotrist for a referral and they didn't listen to him either.. I called him on the phone and asked him to see what he could do to get me in sooner.Finally they did listen and suddenly it was an emergency. I got in right away, was examined and told I had a detached retina! Things moved quickly then. I saw a specialist, was scheduled for and prepped for surgery. At the last minute, I saw the anesthesiologist and he asked the surgeon to cancel because of my COPD, previous heart attacks (7) for which I had 3 stents put in and various other medical problems. For one thing, I have been on medication for Epilepsy for 54 yrs.; and am on blood thinners for my heart of course. I am 69 yrs old. Now I have an appointment with a cardiologist and a pulmonologist. Am scheduled for surgery (if approved) for two weeks from the time of when my first surgery was to take place.
There is a good chance that I will not make it through surgery. I have previously been labeled "not a candidate for surgery" by two other surgeons for other conditions where general anesthetic would be used.
The eye specialist is very determined to do this surgery. I asked what would happen if I didn't (the curtain covers about half of my right eye now). He said that eye would have some pain, shrivel and go blind. Then the other eye would have the same problem. Maybe I should mention that I am very near-sighted.
As I sit waiting for the days/wks to pass, I am wondering if I should just say "NO".
It seems that I have a choice between going blind or being dead. I imagine that blindness would be terrible to live with; but I have a family of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to live for as well as my husband. I had been hoping to make it to our 50th anniversary next July. Longevity is not a longsuit in my family - most siblings died by the time they were 50; so I am surprised to have lived this long.
Please help me decide: Living without seeing or very very possibly die in surgery to save a vision that I won't need anymore? I just don't know what to do.
There is a chance that the cardiologist and the pulmonologist will make that decision for me - at least in their opinions. But I am afraid that I will still be given the option...............................Barb
November 20, 2012 | Barb
David, many thanks for your reply. It's amazing that the length of time for the vitreous to completely varies hugely...........like you I was told it would take around six months, this doesn't seem to be supported by what I have read in the internet.
The right eye (which was lasered six months ago) now seems fine, fingers crossed no further incidents. The left has settled down considerably and is no longer flashing and the floaters are slowly diminishing. I will heed you words regarding travel though. I find it rather scarey, to say the least, that if something should happen abroad, I know I would panic if couldn't get to an eye clinic. I will use all caution (i.e. no heavy lifting etc) and hope I am one of the lucky one's who doesn't have to manage this long term. Having read your story may I can you were incredibly brave, all those air miles would have freaked me out !! Good luck I hope you can now put it all behind you.
November 15, 2012 | Kathy
When I first started having problems with my right eye I was told by an eye doctor that the vitreous detachment normally takes around six months. After eight months when it was still very active, the doctor said it sometimes takes a bit longer in some people. After 18 months, when it was still active, he stopped giving me estimates of when my vitreous detachment would be completed.
Now nearly 10 years later I still occasionally get flashes in both eyes (when the vitreous gel tugs on the retina), so it appears my vitreous detachments have still not been completed in both eyes.
If your vitreous detachment is still quite active (i.e. regularly seeing flashes of light) then you certainly need to be careful about how far away from an eye clinic you are when you are traveling. I did a lot of traveling when my vitreous detachment was active and ended up having lasering done at clinics in Germany, Thailand and the Philippines.
Nowadays my vitreous detachment is not so active so I feel more confident about going to more remote places. In 2010, I spent more than a month in the Andes, in places where I would have had to travel for several days to reach an eye clinic. Fortunately I had no problems with the eyes on that trip.
Regards . . . David
November 14, 2012 | David Astley
Hi, just come across this amazing website, have to say I feel quite a novice after reading some of your experiences. I'll keep it brief. Six months ago I suffered a retinal tear to my right eye, flashes and hundreds of black dots rushing around. i was sent immediately to my local eye casualty for examination and this was lasered within 4 hours. Great. I did some internet research and opinions do vary greatly, but it seems to be that I would be at a greater risk of it happening again in the other eye. I was told it was an aging process where the vitreous gel tugs at the retina, sometimes it comes away cleanly, sometimes causes a bleed and sometimes a tear, as with me.
Well now six months on I had the same symptoms in my left eye, nothing like as bad, but immediately went back to eye casualty. This time, fortunately, there had been a bleed only, no tear, again the gel tugging at the retina. My question is, will this keep happening, if so, for how long. I did ask the specialist registrar and was told that once the gel has come away it all settles down, and all should be well! My fear I guess, is what happens if I'm away on holiday etc and not just down the road from an eye clinic, what would I do in those circumstances? This all seems a bit tame compared to some of your stories I'm afraid, but I do travel quite a lot and am feeling somewhat reluctant now. Your comments would be appreciated. Thanks.
November 6, 2012 | Kathy
I am only 3 wks post surgery. I had cryopexy with a Bubble for a detached retina. I like how someone capitolized Bubble because it takes over your life. I still have mine and it interferes with everything I do. Like other writers, I also spent 2 weeks on the bed/couch with my head cocked at a specific angle. I didn't realize how important this was until much later because I didn't know much about Retinal detachments .Now I'm on the internet everyday researching it.
I got treated fairly quickly - within 48 hrs of seeing the "dark curtain" but I can't help think it should have been sooner. I first experienced the bright lights encircling my eye and a tremendous amount of floaters totally blurring my vision on the Saturday of a holiday week-end. I went to the covering ophtalmologist that afternoon but he couldn't see anything through all the junk in my eye. He pushed down on my eyeball in several places and looked behind it but said he thought it looked alright and to comeback on Thursday to follow-up. I scheduled it on Friday because I didn't want to take the day off from work. That was stupid! By Wednesday evening, I was beginning to see something like a shadow in the corner of my eye, but I didn't want to jump to conclusions and cry wolf. I should have called early Thursday and seen the dr. immediatley, but still I waited and went to work, even though I could barely see out of that eye! By that night I was scared. The dark shadow had become a black half circle moving closer to the center of my eye, I tried to see the Dr. early the next morning but the Receptionist said he had no openings until my appt at 2:30. I should have told her it was an emergency! Within 2 hrs of seeing the opthamologist, I was in the chair of a retinal specialist and having cryopexy followed by a gas bubble. I was very lucky. The "black shadow" only covered 20 % of my eye. If I had waitied any longer, I think it would have peeled off all the way to the macular.
After reading all the symptoms and warning signals on the internet, I'm wondering why the first doctor didn't have me come back sooner for the recheck. Maybe I could have reduced the severity of the detachment... and the treatment.
I returned to the Retinal specialist the next day, and everything seemed to be holding but he wanted to see me again in a few days. On that day, he said he wanted me to do a laser treatment the following week to reinforce the cryopexy. That was scary and I worried about it all week, but when he checked my eye, he said he didn't need to doit! The detachment was completely sealed by the scar tissue. I was told to come back in 2 weeks but no longer had to hold my head at 45 degrees; I could read, move around and use the computer...but no heavy lifting, bending or exercise. That sounded good at the time, but now I'm stuck at home with lilttle to do. I worry every time I empty the dishwasher or dryer!
I see the doctor again in 2 days. I'm worried some of my symptoms may be re-occuring. I see spirals of light in the corner of the affected eye when I go to bed at night and my vision is still blurry. My eye also aches and feels heavy at times. This is so much more than I ever anticipated...and now I read that it's common to have recurring tears and for the other eye to be affected. At least now I will be an informed patient and get treatment in time.
Thank-you for hosting this blog. It's been very helpful to read about other people's experiences.
October 2, 2012 | cora
Your experience mirrors mine except I didn't see flashes or light. I had partial sight. I had two detached retina's in the left eye within a six month period. I went through the same exact thing that you went through. My doctor also advised me to stay clear of altitude and airplanes. I ended up having numerous laser surgeries around 8 and also the Bubble. After a few months I had a cataract surgery. One eye is near sighted and one is far sighted. But I can see with both eyes very well, the left eye is very blurred. All has been going well for the past 11 years. Last year my doctor finally released me from a yearly visit to a visit every other year I thought I'm finally over this yearly thing with him. Yesterday I went to an eye doctor for my yearly eye exam for glasses and the left eyes pressure has jumped from 16 to 21. I've been putting off making an appointment with the retinal specialist. We just moved to this area and I was actually hoping to find a doctor next year. Tomorrow I'll start my search for a Retinal Specialist. Hopefully drops will help.
September 10, 2012 | Marie
Thank you so mch for the chronicle of your eye problems. I have just begun seeing little lightning flashes out of the side of my right eye...Your write-up convinced me to call my eye doctor first thing tomorrow morning...( today was the Labor Day holiday) I am supposed to fly from Denver to Bellingham ,Washington on Thursday...I will feel beter about what questions to ask after reading your experience . Hoping that you proceed with no new eye issues....Thanks again, Your photos are wonderful...I have been to China/ Japan / Mongolia and really loved seeing those places again through your lens!
September 4, 2012 | Virginia
Reply to Caroline:
Sorry to hear that you are one of those who have had a worse experience with a detached retina than most. I was VERY surprised to read your comment about asking your doctor what your chances were of having a detached retina in your second eye.("He said the odds were astronomical and that it rarely happens and I shouldn't worry.') That was contrary to the advice that I got from all the doctors that I consulted. They told me it was quite common for it to happen to the second eye. But when it does happen to the second eye, patients are aware of the symptoms and know to get treatment urgently - which is why the second eye often ends up being treated more easily than the first eye. Unfortunately you had a bad time with both eyes, but still your second eye fared a little better for the same reason (i.e. treatment was initiated earlier).
The only consolation I can offer you from my own experience is that you do get used to the floaters, and after some years you really don't notice them (until someone asks you whether you still have floaters in your eye!). I also see flashes from time to time in both eyes - even after all these years (despite several doctors telling me they would disappear after six months).
September 2, 2012 | David Astley
Wow, what a blog! I thought no one had had as bad a time as I have had.
September 2009 I mentioned to my optomatrist that I had been seeing "starbursts" in my left eye but only in the morning when I was waking up. Actually it was probably the only time I noticed them due to being in the dark. He sent me to an opthamologist who referred me to e St Louis Retinal Specialist named Dr Kevin Blinder. I swear the name is true! He completed a cryofreeze on the eye which closed the tiny holes and that lasted until September of 2010. One fateful day,I saw so many floaters that I thought it was a flock of birds in the sky. Much to my dismay my 9 year old daughter told me that NO Mom there are no birds. The next day, I walked back inside on a beautiful sunny day only to realize that the sun spot wasnt going away. I went straight to the Retinal Specialist who sent me to emergency surgery. I had the retina reattached and stitched. I spent 3 weeks sitting up in a recliner. When I went back for my followup, it was discovered that the stitching had not held. I again underwent surgery and had a sceral buckle placed and the gas bubble inserted for support.This meant 3 weeks face down. I was only allowed to lift my head every 4 hours for my eye drops. I spent another 5 weeks sitting up. After that, the progress was well enough that I could return to work and life! I saw the Dr every 3 months just to be safe. The vision in my left eye is now farsighted at a -7.50 where as before it used to be nearsighted at a +13.25. I can no longer read with that eye unless it is very large letters and everything I saw is wavy. I also have limited pheriphal vision on my left. During the second surgery the lens had to be removed due to scar tissue that was causing cataracts. My eye stays permanently dilated due to the damage. I asked the Dr what my chances were of this happening to my right eye. He said the odds were astronomical and that it rarely happens and I shouldn't worry.
This brings me to October 2011. I saw very minute flashes of lights in my RIGHT eye. I wasted no time and again made an appointment with Dr Blinder. I had hoped there was only a small tear that could be fixed by the Cryofreeze. Unfortunately he found a detached retina. A few days later I found myself in surgery again. For this eye we made the decision to go ahead with the sceral buckle with the gas bubble due to my previous experiences. Again I was face down for 4 weeks and another 5 sitting up. The frustration with this healing period was that I couldnt see very well out of my left eye. Even though I could sit up, I couldn't go anywhere by myself as I would bump into things and of course I couldn't drive.I also couldn't read or even see the numbers on my cell phone. My balance was such a mess that I had to use my hands to feel against the walls of my own home!
After the gas bubble disappated, I was able to see with my right eye. Thankfully there was no damage to the macula so there are no wavy lines and I can see well enought to drive! I rely heavily on my right eye and am able to read, drive and work. My right eye is still nearsighted but for the worse at a +17. This means that without my contacts in I can read the serial number on my own contacts lens!
With all that said and done, with another fall season approaching, I find myself almost sick to my stomach. Three years running has seen me sitting inside my home and unable to see the beautiful chaning colors of the Midwest. However there is asilver lining to all of this. I found that neighbors are more than neighbors, acquaintances turn into be friends, and friends turn into be godsends. I went thru all of this as a a 36 year old widow and mom of a now 12 year old daughter and a 14 year old son. We all learned to appreciate the small things in life. I know that as I go to my follow up appointment on 9/5/12 I will be extremely anxious but I know that I am in good hands and that I have been thru this before.
In my research and in talking with my retinal specialist, there is nothing proactive that can be done to prevent this. It can happen to anyone at any time. WIth my severe nearsightedness, It just happens to be in the smaller percentage that can have a detached retina and in the 5% that it can happen to both eyes.
The really scary part is that I will always see floaters and still to this day see flashes of lights. I will see my retinal specialist at least every months for probably the rest of my life.
If this has taught me anything, it is that I am blessed to have seen the face of my children, the sun set and the moon rise. I have to stay positive and count my blessings as there are some out there that have never seen colors at all!
Thank you for sharing your story and I now feel so much less alone in the world when dealing with this.
August 22, 2012 | Caroline
Just a short thank you for your post on retinal detachment. I'm recovering from surgery now in Kumamoto, Japan and your information is really appreciated. I wrote about my experience (more in the context of dealing with a sudden hospitalization than with the find points of retinal detachment here
Looking forward to looking at your travel pics when I get home!
August 1, 2012 | joe tomei
Sorry for the delay in replying. I've been traveling and wasn't checking my guestbook. I agree with Maggie that you shouldn't risk flying until the gas bubble has been absorbed. Mine took about three weeks to be completely absorbed, but I've heard of it taking longer. I guess it depends on how much gas is injected into the eye. So it looks like you'll have to postpone your flight to mid-August barring no further complications. Sounds like everything happened with the worst possible timing, but saving your eyesight has to be the first priority, and it sounds like your doctor has done that. In my blog I described the month that I had the gas bubble in my eye as the worst month of my life - and I expect that's exactly how you feel right now - but you'll feel a bit better every day from now on, just as the tens of thousands of other people who have been through this did. I'm sure you'll enjoy living in Australia. As Maggie said, the eye doctors there are first class and you will have no problems with your follow-up eye care.
July 25, 2012 | David Astley
I am in Perth, WA [where the sun shines all day!!]. Rest assured our doctors/hospitals are first class. We have a NHS called Medicare which has the same challenges as the NHS. We also have a private health system - HBF, BUPA which can cost up to $4,000 for a family per year - it is affordable but it has many tiers to it. I went to a private Dr on Tuesday morning, paid him $160 to find out I had a detached retina - he could operate on me privately the next day, but he operated on my eye 5 hours later at our general hospital as my macula was peeling apparently. Follow up care has been great.
I hope you recover quickly and can meet up with your wife soon. Keep positive :-)
July 21, 2012 | Maggie
Thankyou Maggie for your encouraging words, I can be quite selfless sometime, but I will definately not going to travel with a gas bubble in my eye, last thing I want is to cause a long term damage. I have been putting off having friends over last time it was detached, but for the few days, it shows how important they are. If you don't mind me asking, how are the ophthalmologist in oz? I will based around Geelong coast, vic.
I do sincerely hope, if any one who unfortunate to have a retinal detachment, on a speedy recovery with no complication.
July 18, 2012 | Don
Hi Don, Sorry about your bad luck - but please don't despair. I live in Oz and had to arrive in the May for a job and my husband eventually got here in the September - some 27 years later we are still here and together. It'll all work out ok. Re your eye, only your surgeon can best direct you, but I do know if you fly before the gas has absorbed you will be in agony on the flight and possibly do more damage :- Trust me, 20 hours + on a flight isn't fun anyway. It may take 4-6 weeks before you can fly. Hang in there.
July 17, 2012 | Maggie
ops done under general yesterday, good news only the sf6 gas, and 70% filled. My flight to oz is aug the 1st, its gonna be tight. So i was wondering , how after the gas has been dispersed before you can fly again.
July 15, 2012 | don
Thanks for the informative blog, just what I needed today.
I'm Don, 30, UK. I had a retina detachment in my right eye 7weeks ago, a day before I was due to migrate to Oz with my wife. I had a long lasting gas put into my eye. As my wife had a job lined up, I told her to head over to oz. it's difficult, Im missing greatly, even though we speak for hours everyday on Skype. I have my family and friends here. And Sam is on her own, feeling lonely even though she is making friends but it's not the same.
I booked my flight to oz for the 1st aug, had my routine check up on last Friday and it was fine and retina stayed attached. On Saturday I starting to realise a white shadow looming in the top left corner of my eye. Which I though it could be the cataract. I contacted the doctor on Monday and he said it looked fine on Friday and not to worry. Now the white curtain has invaded to my centre vision. This morning I decided to go and have it checked. And it was bad news, another detachment. Not what I want to hear. I need to go back in tomorrow and have another op in the morning, under GA. I don't think I can cope with another few months from my wife! She have rental and shipping to deal with if she come back. I just don't know what to do. :(
July 12, 2012 | Don
Additional comment for Sunil: I expect you have already been advised of this, but weight-lifting is an absolute no-no after a detached retina. One of my doctors told me I should not try lifting anything heavier than 20 kg otherwise I risk another retinal tear. So when I am traveling I always keep my bags to less than 20 kg. If ever I have to travel with anything that is heavier, I get someone else to lift it for me. Cycling should not a problem.
June 22, 2012 | David Astley
Reply to Sunil: If the dots are very small (like pepper specks) then yes, they will go away, because my eye surgeon told me they were blood specks which will eventually be absorbed into the eye. Larger floaters may stay there a lot longer. Unfortunately the sensation of looking through a glass of water does not go away (at least not in my case). It is nine years since my detached retina and I still have that sensation. However, you do get used to it , and nowadays I am only conscious of it when somebody mentions it or I do an eye test (when the letters on the chart are wavy because of that 'looking through water' sensation).
June 22, 2012 | David Astley
Reply to Keith: The light flashes are not across the whole field of vision. They are bright pin points of light. For me the light always moved around the outside of the field of vision (in less than a second).
June 22, 2012 | David Astley
Great Information on Retinal detachment....and great pictures in the other areas of the site ass well.
I had retinal detachment surgery last year in my right eye. I lost 50% of my vision with a black drape over my right eye. I had the surgery done in Japan as this is where I live. I ended up with a gas bubble inserted in my right eye and had to lay on my stomach and side for 3 weeks. My vision has not fully returned, in fact when looking with my right eye only it looks as if you are looking through a glass of water. I do not think that the vision will fully return in this eye.
Las week tuesday I was getting a check eye checkup and 3 tears were detected in my good left eye. I went under laser surgery on friday. I still have the same symptoms.....little black dots everywhere and a small dark area at the right most area of my vision and overall my vision is unchanged.
Will the dots go away after several weeks? Not sure.
I workout pretty heavily and am into weightlifting and typically do curls with 25kilos and heavy bench presses. Also am into long distance cycling - 100 km per day or more - and it looks like I will need to ease up on most of these types of activities. I also travel a lot with my job but given the amount of travel David does it looks like that might be less of a problem.
Anyways good luck to you all and hopefully things will clear up. I continue to worry about this and wonder if there is anything I can do to prevent this. I am only 49 years old which seems young for this type of thing to happen. Any thoughts or comments would be great.
June 17, 2012 | Sunil
problem started about 5/16/12- i will be 71 in october. had a partial tear in my left eye . over the years i have read about eye problems because of my floaters. as soon as i saw the flashing light and a dark shadow on the outside of the eye,, i knew i had a problem. went immed to the retinal specialist who confirmed my fear. IV injected, gas bubble was injected, and for a week , 20 minutes out of every hour ( 24/7 ) i had to lie on my stomach., not on my back. looking thru the gas bubble ,the gas makes it look like your eyeball is full of water, complete with little waves and slushes as you walk around or move your head. it is very important that you follow directions without question. laying on my stomach is necessary because it forces the gas bubble to the back of the eyeball. i guess the gas helps in the mending process. i feel the one month layoff was necessary as the alternative is not good. i see the doctor again on 6/20/12, if he tells me to wait another 2 weeks before running, i will add 2 more weeks. i play a lot of softball, which requires a lot of running. the running will jar the eyeball, which may tear the retina tissue again. but as of now , one month after the problem surfaced, my vision is back pretty good, just to need to make sure that the mending holds and that my other eyeball hangs on to the retina tissue. TAKE CARE OF YOUR EYES, DONT TAKE THEM FOR GRANTED. BLINDNESS IN ONE EYE, DESTROYS AND AFFECTS EVERYTHING YOU DO. GOOD LUCK ! FRANK A. DALLAS, TEXAS, USA .
June 17, 2012 | f armijo
I, thankfully, had the laser surgery to correct a hole and a tear that were working their way around the retina. The light you describe is exactly what I saw. It was almost as if someone took a pen light and wiggled it around my left peripheral vision field. The light lasted maybe a second. It appeared in light and dark rooms. For a day or so, I was convinced I was in for the migraine of my life, but it didn't come. I was a sophomore in college, played no sports, and had not taken any blows or trauma to the head. The doctors were all surprised, as I was not the typical patient. My doctor was able to get me in--three months from then...that was until I mentioned the symptoms. An appointment opened up that day. Funny you mentioned it, I was also sent from one doctor to the surgeon's office without stopping to pay. I still get nervous every time I see a floater or a flashing light.
June 8, 2012 | EP
When people mention seeing "light flashes"
- is it a light flash which affects the entire field of vision?
- is it small dots of light?
What I'm seeing occasionally is a bright dot of light which moves across my field of vision then disappears in half a second.
During my search, I found this research institute which has useful concise info:
May 23, 2012 | keith
Many thanks for replying and reassuring me - you have travelled extensively so should know. I know every eye is different but being at the end of the earth being stuck in an aircraft for at least 10 hours with an 'exploding' eye scared me a bit!
April 29, 2012 | Maggie
Reply to Karen:
My understanding is that if a detached retina is not treated immediately, the resulting blindness becomes permanent after just a few days. But best you check with a qualified eye doctor.
April 29, 2012 | David Astley
Reply to Maggie:
I did a lot of long haul flying after my retinal surgery and never had any problems. And I've never heard of anyone else having problems in pressurised aircraft.
Hope that helps to reassure you!
April 29, 2012 | David Astley
Hi Natalie. I hope you can see this post. I just wanted to comment on the flashing lights you said you had after surgery. Im 6 months post-surgery, after 4 surgeries in my left eye for a retinal detachment. I have even had a Vitrectomy, and that means no vitreous jelly left, and i still have flashing lights, so thats a little weird. Especially since they say its a vitreous-thing. I have asked my doctors, but they all give me some half-ass answers. They might as well told me they didn't know what it was. Im hoping all is well with you now, and you David.
Great blog by the way!
April 25, 2012 | Kenni Pedersen
Great site & very helpful info. I've just had extensive surgery for a detached retina [3 wks ago]. Has anyone travelled long haul post surgery - eg 10 hour plus flight [Australia to England] and did they experience any problems or pain. I've had to cancel my holiday for May but thinking of travelling to the UK from Oz in September - bit worried as I've heard a few stories about 'eye felt like it was going to explode etc'!
Many thanks for any info.
April 19, 2012 | Maggie
hey david! thanks for sharing your story and i'm glad you were able to overcome the many obstacles and complications you experienced.
this is kind of a long shot, but i thought i would ask anyway. a friend of mine has both of his retinas detached (he didn't have the means/opportunity for urgent surgery). so, he's been blind for about 7 years now. is there any therapy or possibility for him even to regain a little sight?
April 13, 2012 | karen
No, I don't believe you are being a drama queen wanting to go back and get your eyes checked out again. You should do that anytime you feel something is not right. I go for a retinal check-up any time I feel I am seeing more floaters or flashing lights than usual. Most times there is no problem, but as I know from past experience that sometimes there IS a problem, it is not worth risking more serious problems developing undetected for the sake of a retinal check-up. In fact I had a check-up last week after seeing more flashing lights than usual in my right eye. Fortunately there was no problem. The doctor just told me the vitreous detachment in that eye was still in an active phase. I always laugh when they tell me that because back in 2006 an eye doctor told me that it takes about 6 months for the vitreous jelly to detach from the retina. When I went back 12 months later after seeing flashing lights, he said "Well with some people it can take a year or more - but maximum 18 months". So here I am 6 years later and the vitreous jelly has still not fully detached. So it's not that odd that you are still seeing flashing lights a year on.
Cheers . . . David
April 12, 2012 | David Astley
I had cryo surgery this time last year after experiencing a LOT of black flashing (pharmacist told me I had recurrent migraines). I lost my glasses, went for an eye test and low and behold, a retinal tear! I had two sessions of laser which didn't work and then a session of cryo which I was told a month later had worked successfully!
However, a year on I'm now seeing a flashing light which moves around my eye for a few seconds before fading the the occassional black flashing spots. I'm only 22 and only -2.25, am I being a drama queen if I go back again to get this checked out?
A month after my cryo, I felt patronised when I asked why I was still seeing the lights but I guess that was a month after surgery. A year on, it seems a bit odd considering I never saw lights and now I am...?
April 11, 2012 | Natalie
David, thank you for your excellent blog. I have not had a retinal detachment but I did have a retinal tear repaired with an argon green laser, I'm still being followed for that. I had the increase in floaters followed by flashing liights, and although I was not entirely sure what was happening, I knew I needed to see my ophthalmologist, I had lattice degeneration and PVD. Indeed, it is a medical emergency. The only comment I wanted to make about the laser treatments is that they did not need to hurt. Actually, there are local anesthetics that could have been injected in your eye to make you more comfortable, or you could have been given medication to help you relax. You should never have been told to sit on a chair with casters, that probably would not have happened in the US, the chair I sat in was attached to the floor and would not move. Regardless, thank you so much for sharing and making more people aware of retinal tears and detachment.
April 10, 2012 | Anonymous
Thank you so much for taking the time to post this on the internet.
I just started seeing the black SPOTS and new floaters yesterday afternoon.
This morning driving to work at 6 am (still dark outside) I saw the flashing lights on the left periphery of my left eye.
I picked my daughter up from school (13) and asked her to google "why am I seeing black spots in my vision" and your website came up. I had absolutely no idea what those PEPPER SPOTS could be. But within 3 minutes of her reading your website, I was calling my eye dr with an emergency call to be seen in the morning.
Thank you very much and to all the people that have posted to your site.
You may have saved me tremendous pain and even my eye sight!
Thank each and every one of you.
March 30, 2012 | Lisa
I just wanted today thank you for this, I am 22 and have just been through the horror of a detached retina. Like you I ignored the warning signs an by the time I acted it was too late, I had a large detachment effecting the macula. I had emergency surgery under local anaesthetic to attach a buckle.... 2 weeks later I was having another operation as there was still a pool of fluid pushing the retina away. I had a circumpheral buckle put on under local and cryo to weld it all together. You think the first op hurts, try the second one over scar tissue! Another 2 weeks passed and I was in again for laser on my other eye to repair holes, I love your description of it and had to laugh (and cringe) remembering that pain again! I am now 2 months post surgery, my sight in the right eye is rubbish, but it's sight and I'm greatfull. I don't think this will be it for my eye problems but I will face them when it comes. Thank so much =)
March 14, 2012 | Charlie
Hello, David and everyone, Thank you so much for sharing your stories. I'm myopic 1.0 and wearing glasses for around 12 years now. I recently went for my aviation medical examination and the doctor found some holes and tears in both eyes. He asked me to do laser immediately and within a week I did my laser which had the same pricking pain like David's. It's almost 3 months now and I am starting to see some floaters at bright conditions.and flashes 2-3 times a day. I'm going to.consult my doctor soon..It terrifies me everytime I think of an eye surgery like what David went through. Fingers Crossed!
February 20, 2012 | Nawaf
Really helpful site. My experience.
I had myopic shift (2009) which is worsening of vision rapidly. From -3.5 to -6.5 in 1year.
Followed by cataract surgery complicated but highly successful.
Almost 12 mths later Nov 2011 flashes of light in rt eye told I have Posterior vitreoue detachment and not to worry.
Come 25th Dec 2011 rt eye upper vision got affected. Seen 3 days later 28th Dec 2011. I was told I have RD with macula off which is the sensory part of the vision.
Had surgery on the 30th Dec 2011. This included
1)Cryo + Laser
3)Gas (long acting)
Its now 30days since operation.
I am starting to see at the upper end of my visual field.
I am keeping the pirates patch on since the vision is very strange with the left eye being normal.
Their is a now a central wobbly structure which is slowly disappearing.
I did keep my head in a certain position but my surgeon was relaxed about it.
I hope this is the end of the problems but I have been told of all the complications that can happen.
Are their people who just have one procedure and remain well?
January 31, 2012 | w ayub
I read your entire post about your retinal detachment and I found it really interesting. I am currently experiencing those floaters and flashes in my eyes and my ophthalmologist says I have a posterior vitreous detachment in my right eye. I also have glaucoma and an inflammatory condition called occular sarcoidosis. I am praying that my PVD will not cause any complications with my retina as I don't think I could bear someone going at my eye while I was awake. Thank you for sharing your story with us and good luck with your eyes.
January 26, 2012 | Robert @ The Mini Fridge
Hi everyone, while doing some research online about my condition I ran into this wonderful place. I have to say that the minute that I started reading your story I couldn't help but to think of my own story. My nightmare began 06/06/06 (creepy date huh?) well that day I woke up at around 2am and noticed that I couldn't see anything out of my right eye.I didn't think anything of it because there was no pain or other symptom that seemed alarming. I went to work that morning and tried calling several Dr's but no one had room to see me so they just kept on telling me to go to the er. At that time I lived in Miami where luckily, I was 10 miles away from Bascom Palmer Eye Institute (which is number one in the country) but I really didn't feel like going to the er. The thing that I didnt understood then was that Bascom Palmer has an emergency room for eye problems, so me not knowing that I kept looking for a Dr with no luck. Then I remembered that a friend of mine was going to medical school for opthalmology and was doing an internship with a retina specialist in another hospital in Miami. Thank God I was able to reach him and after telling him my sysmptoms the only thing he said was "ok Debbie let me call you back in 5 minutes" but his voice sounded as if he was scared. A few minutes later he calls me and tells me that the Dr that he was working for then had agreed to see me given that it was a genuine medical emergency. I was still confused as how it was an emergency but by the time I got to see the Dr that day at 3pm, I understood that things were not well. The Dr told me that I had to have surgery within two days making the surgery day, my then 26 birthday. I can never forget that day. It was the worst bday present life has given me thusfar. They did a scleral buckle procedure that turned into failure within 2 weeks. I had to fly my mom to Miami to help me, and I remember like it was yesterday, taking my mom to the airport for her to go back home and as she left my dad called me. When he asked me how my eye was, I closed my left eye and again I realized it was detached again... the problem now was that the dr that did the 1st procedure had gone to Hawaii on vacation and was refered to Bascom Palmer's ER. So I went and inmediately after that I had surgery with the man whom these days I consider very dear to my heart. During my second surgery they did the gas bubble and had me in the face down position for 3 weeks. That was a very challenging time for me and my mom who was there with me always. So the gas bubble didnt work either, and now we are in detachment #3. Then they did the silicone oil and then I had surgery to take out the oil, they also did cataract surgery and implant a lense in my eye since mine was no good. I remember the day after my first surgery I thought my vision was gonna be the same, but it wasnt. I had then been diagnosed with macular degeneration which will prevent me from having my vision, if anything is just getting worse. 4 years after the last surgery I went to see my Dr in Miami because since then I had relocated to Washington DC and was refered to a Dr in Johns Hopkins for follow ups every 6 months. I moved back to Fl and when I saw Dr Murray 4 years after he had treated me, he was very concerned that my eyes have deteriorated a lot. I am undergoing a series of injections every 2 months because there is a lot of swelling in the eye that can lead to another detachment. To make matters worse, I have been diagnosed with lattice degeneration in the left eye and the Dr is not confident as for how long the retina will be attached. He has mentioned that preventive surgery in the left eye will not be consider a good idea, given the likelyhood of the odds of the right retina detaching 3 consecutive times, so it clearly isn't so receptive. I say if it isn't broken dont fix it, but I live in constant fear for waking up like I did that 06/06/06...I hate that day... I have been an advocate for eye health and I'm glad to know that science is so advanced. I remember during my follow ups after surgery, there would be students using my case as a learning tool, which I really dont mind. I really do feel ready to take upon the challenges that life will bring me should anything happen with my left eye, but I have confidence in God that he will give me an opportunity to continue dealing with one eye only. I admire anyone that has gone through this and I think it is important for people to learn about these problems because like you, I was totally unaware of what a retina was until of course that summer day on 06/06/06.
January 14, 2012 | Debbie Jones
I wanted to give you a follow-up on my experience reported above. In early December of 2011 I experienced a weird fluttering in my LEFT eye in a low-light situation at work, and thought, oh no not again, then the next day noticed with alarm that my vision in that eye had become obscured by a ring of black. I went back to my clinic and was told that my left eye was now undergoing vitreous separation, and what I was seeing was blood inside the eye, which was, she said, good news in that it would be reabsorbed. I said, there's a retinal tear, I can tell, no I don't see it, she said. I said, well I'm not leaving until you find it. After 10 minutes she said, aha, there it is, and I had laser on that retina as well. Meanwhile my right eye has mostly cleared, no floaters at all now, but I still experience some fuzziness in my central field of vision in the right eye. The left eye
has healed well, the ring of black is going away. She said, the good news is you are not going blind, so that is something. I did not find the second surgery to hurt as much, but it was also a much smaller tear so the laser was only pulsed a dozen times instead of the right eye which had 10 minutes of laser. I am hopeful things will clear up. I appreciate your blog, because there just aren't that many resources out there for those of us experiencing these things. I thank whatever gods there may be that my experience was nothing like B's. Thanks for your time, David - here is to good health and recovery for all.
January 2, 2012 | T Hartwig
I thought I was lucky with my experience of a detached retna but after reading this blog with not just your experience but others as well, I know KNOW how lucky I was. My detachment occurred on a Friday night while reading a magazine. It was like the pages shifted.....I really can't quite explain it. I was at our cottage and didn't want to have to go back in to the city so I waited until Monday to go see the eye Dr. What I did do right away though was shut my left eye and bring my left hand around and couldn't see my finger until it was past my nose and right in front of the right eye. Unlike many postings I didn't experience the flash of lite or the spot/floaters. When I called to make my apt. My Dr was working out of his other office so Ken called over and called me back saying the Dr's first apt is at noon, he'll see you at 11:45. I arrived at the mall at 11:15, just as the Dr was walking in. I said, "oh Dr. Yale, just the man I'mgoint to see in half an hour, and he said no, just the person you're going to see right now". That's when I thought okay, this may be something serious!!
I was seen by a surgeon at 2:00 that afternoon and on the operating table at 5:30 pm the next day, and because I have asthma, stayed overnight and was home onWednesday morning by 10:00 am. The surgeon put what is referred to as a "buckle" on the eye and there was no need for gas. I received some good advise from a friend who had eye surgery and that was....don't wait for the pain to take the pain pills...if it says take every 4 hours, take it every 4 hrs. He said nothing compares to the pain that you feel in yor eye after surgery, and he was right. I pushed it once and once only. In spring of 2009 I had a second operation on the eye to peel scar tissue off the eye that was greatly affecting my ability to read out of that eye and I am now experiencing the development of a cataract in the eye that in a very short time took the vision from -7.5 to -9.5. I have the utmost faith and trust in Dr. Yale and he will monitor it again in 6 months. If there is further change he will refer me back to the surgeon, who I also trust, to determine what we do next. I know that my story may not be the norm, but I wanted to share it so that those coping with a detached retna see that it isn't always necessary for the gas procedure and limited mobility. The funny thing was the whole time I was dealing with this my attitude was "oh we'll, at least I have another eye if things don't go well, lots of people live with site in just one eye". .....but I'm very happy that isn't something I had to learn to adjust to. At least not yet.
January 2, 2012 | Jean Gendron
Thank you so much for your story. I'm in the high-risk group and such an informative and detailed account is so very much appreciated.
December 10, 2011 | Clinton Dawkins
David, Thanks so much for your story! I worry about detached retina and glaucoma both; I've had lasik surgery to correct my extreme near sightedness and I'm now over 50:) My pressures have always been normal but today I woke up with 'sparkles' around my left eye that faded in a few minutes, no increase in floaters or permanent black spots. I'll schedule an eye appointment anyway.
You blessed me,
November 20, 2011 | Gia Frank
Hi David, thanks for this post. I started experiencing vitreous separation in June of this year, 2011, and finally had the laser eye surgery this past Oct 21, 2011. I asked if it would hurt. Oh no, said the doctor. LIAR. My gods, if I'd had some warning...... that really hurt, I said, is it going to hurt tomorrow? Oh no I was told. Well... it's day 3 and it still hurts. It feels exactly like the back of my eye got welded. I don't have the words.
I don't know if the procedure was successful or not as my vision in that eye is now cloudy (it wasn't before) and I am still experiencing flashes.
Anyway the reason I am commenting is because you describe a similar experience with talent. Also, I somehow feel reassured upon reading your post, it helps to know it's a road too unfortunately often traveled.....I hope your eye problems are over.
Thank you for this well-written article.
October 24, 2011 | T Hartwig
thanks for sharing your story. I have just had two laser surgeries for retinal tears in the past few days and am hoping it does progress to detachment. Going back to dr. tomorrow. Please pray for me. thanks.
October 24, 2011 | Steve
Yes, I had a detached retina as well. Mine was bad. Totally detached.
I was totally blind in my eye for 5 days before I had the operation. It took 10 weeks for the gas bubble to dissolve and I only have a few slight blemishes in my vision 6 months later.
I just count myself as extremely lucky.
September 8, 2011 | Ian
Since 2005 when I posted the story of my retinal detachment on this website, many people have left comments on their own experiences with a detached retina in this guestbook. This guestbook has thus become a kind of resource for people who have suffered detached retinas and found it helpful to browse through and read some of the experiences of others who have been through the same trauma.
Therefore, knowing that many people who read this guestbook are doing so to seek reassurance about what they may expect to happen in the future after suffering a detached retina, I should caution that the post below by a contributor who has signed off only as “B” is not a typical experience.
Aside from going completely blind (which is the consequence of not getting treatment for a detached retina), B’s experience could be described as a worst case scenario. I make this point only so that readers who have recently suffered a detached retina do not become overly alarmed upon reading the post below. Whilst I am saddened to read about the terrible experiences that B is going through – and I hope that he or she will see some improvement after the consultation with the neurological ophthalmologist – these are experiences that only a very small number of people go through.
But B’s experience does highlight how serious a detached retina is and how important it is to respond to the symptoms of a detached retina as a medical emergency and seek immediate treatment. If it is the middle of the night, or on a weekend, don’t wait for the next working day to make an appointment to see an eye specialist – go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. A few hours saved getting treatment can make the difference between successful recovery – which is fortunately what most people experience – or a detached retina turning life into a living hell, which is unfortunately what B is experiencing.
August 26, 2011 | David Astley
3 1/2 years ago, I had a horsehoe tear (almost detached) for two weeks. Didn't know to get it seen because the floaters didn't hurt. Neither did the flashing light. No one tells you that it is an emergency. At eye exams, they just say, do you see ___? If not, they say good. The laser to try to repair it. Felt like the inside of my head was sizzling and being destroyed. Several weeks later, it detached. Two thirds of what I saw was absolutely black, There was a narrow slit left where I could see. While the retina surgeon saved my eye- vitrectomy and buckle- (and another surgeon for cataract and follow-up cataract surgery), I have been living in hell for 3 1/2 years. I am told my eye never adjusted to the buckle. It IS as if i have been punched in the face, and the eye and surrounding area hurt and feel pressure and feel swollen. It feels as if a thick glass bowl is in my eye/head and it hurts all the time, and sometimes there is a stabbing feeling, and as if I am looking all the time through a thick glass curve like you see at the aquarium. It is exhausting, scary, and depressing. What I see drives me crazy. I can never get away from this nightmare. I will never commit suicide, but that is the way it makes you feel, and even as you say Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! to everything with which you are constantly obsessing because it takes up all your time and energy, that is all you can do . I cannot get out of the car and put the keys away. I cannot let go of the keys. I am gripped with fear. I have tried. Too often, it ends up with this and other sequences, I try 3 times, and can't go through with it. I get out of the car, close the car door, and walk across a parking lot into a store as if everything is normal. It is not. I am gripped with a tightened knot in my stomach and facing the distortion I see all the time. Out of sight out of mind. So so many things are forgotten. I am off-balance. I can stand on my "tip-toes" - that is not the issue- it is the terrible feeling that wells up inside from what I see that creates the gripping anxiety and panic. I hide all of this. Not sure what or where a center of balance is. Going into stores, driving- it is all a nightmare, but I fight my way through and do it. It is beyond being on a sickening ride at the fair and not being able to get off that ride. At the fair, the ride is over there, and you can get off and leave it. It is to have that ride and effects in your head and stomach all the time. I am scheduled to see a neurological ophthalmologist. Don't know what he can do, but the appointment was made because I suffer all the symptoms of Alzheimer's. I am confused, but hide it well. I have forgotten words and don't spell well, both of which were part of my expertise, and have no immediate term memory. If something is out of sight, I don't remember that I touched it, picked it up, was handed an item, or did something. It isn't the usual occurrence that happens every now and then to all of us. It is ALL THE TIME, WITH EVERYTHING. I do everything but am living a nightmare. I look normal and am panicked all the time. Everything that we automatically do in a certain order, I have to question. Everything that was automatic is now confusing. Days of the week, month; I make appointments on the same day and have to struggle through realizing that I made two appointments on the same day, overlapping times. I bump into things, and sometimes drop things. Not sure where I am stepping. Wavy and zig ag lines, a shiny mismash of - what- vessels at the bottom - pulsate like a heartbeat, part of the retina is gone so it is black in one corner. Going from light to dark and to light is blinding and awful. Fluttering image like the rapid wings of a butterfly. Looking a person in the eye makes me want to scream and run away - holding the eye contact is so overwhelming and unbearable. Not even sure where my body is relative to the world around me. I feel weighted down, and getting up is a struggle. Moving an item from one place to another feels like it is very heavy and takes an eternity. The feeling of panic, anxiety, and despair are constant with the overwhelming feeling within my stomach that feels like a constant welling up of fear. I cry all the time, and try to pull myself together to go to work. 3 1/2 years.... I believe that had I known to go in right away, my eye and my life would have been saved from this torture and nightmare. You can't image how much i had to go over this to make corrections of mistakes that I never would have made prior to the retina disaster.
August 9, 2011 | B
When I read your article about your retina problems, I can't help but to reflect on my own experience with retina detachment. I first found out I had retina problems when I saw flashing lights and multi coloured lines back in 2000. The leading government eye hospital in KL diagnosed me to be having a large retina tear on my right eye. Maybe its my bad luck or just karma-I had some friends in the medical fraternity and was undecided whose opinion to take. One eye doctor friend told me the operation was simple and the senior consultant that operated on me was competent, while another fertility doctor friend said the only retina surgeon that could do this operation in Malaysia was Dr Sheshan Lim. Naturally, I took the eye doctor friend's advice and it turned out disastrously. After operating for the torn retina, within 2 weeks, the vision was impaired again and I asked the consultant why. He was flipping through my patient's notes and maybe it was intuition, I knew at that moment he could not fix my problem which has now turned more serious-I now have retina detachment. I surfed the net and found out about Singapore National Eye Centre. I sent them a mail and they recommended me to contact Dr Ong Sze Guan, the retina surgeon and Director of Training and Education then. Dr Ong tried various ways to fix this problems-I had laser welding done-it was so painful that tears rolled out. I had 3 surgeries, first time with gas implant into the right eye-it failed to work. Second time was with silicone oil implant and third operation, to remove the silicone oil from the eye. So all in all, I had 4 surgeries from year 2000 till 2003. Now fast forward to 2011, there has been no developments on the right eye which is a good thing, I am having blurred vision as the lense has been taken out but the eye is stil intact. The upper vision is slightly blurred as if there is a small curtain covering the eye. Other than that, the eye is healthy and I am waiting for new technology that could restore my vision. I have learned to live with double vision but otherwise all is well. Last year I had cataract done on my left eye in Singapore and now I do not need glasses. However, I still go back to Singapore twice a year for check-ups to determine if the 2 eyes are ok.
I made a costly mistake by choosing the wrong doctor. The period of 2000-2003 was one of the most traumatic periods of my life-my marriage failed, I could not concentrate on my business and it too failed, plus the trauma and uncertainty not knowing whether my eye will turn blind...luckily, I had tremendous confidence in my ability to rise again and my family was there to help me pull through.
Someone should start a retina detachment support group in Malaysia and I would be pleased to lend my support.
May 11, 2011 | Peter Tan
I recently underwent surgery for a retinal detachment that had reached the point where I needed emergency treatment and a full vitroectomy, as the retina was separating from the macula. My condition began slowly with the appearance of a curved discolouration in the lower left of my field of vision in the left eye, however it was incorrectly diagnosed as a floater by my optician and I did not seek expert opinion until several weeks later when it very rapidly spread across my field of vision. Fortunately at that point my wife insisted on taking me to the local hospital where the detachment was diagnosed - I was referred to an opthalmic surgeon and underwent surgery the next day.
It's now two weeks later and the eye is healing well, with only a little surface irritation. The gas bubble has decreased by about 75% but still causes some distraction. I can, however, now see that although my vision in that eye will be clear and colour sight good, shapes are quite distorted, and I suspect this will be a permanent condition.
I found your website whilst looking for information about the condition and its treatment, and I wanted to thank you for sharing in detail your experiences. I was particularly relieved to read that you have been able to adapt to "mismatched" vision, as it gives me hope that I will also learn to accept and deal with this deficiency.
Healthy vision is so precious, but we take it for granted until it is disrupted. I hope others will take heed of your experience and understand that early diagnosis and treatment are absolutely crucial.
August 8, 2010 | Anthony Green
Thanks for the info on retinal problems on your website. After being diagnosed with hypertensive retinopathy last year now left with smal"scar" over maucal on L/eye my consultant, after 9 months noticed in the R/eye a 1mm hole which no flyid, but had appeared sealled - 2 weeks of worry and back and all the floaters and everything for years were explained as you say. No change after 2 weeks but it looks like the 1mm hole had sealed itself and could have been there for years. Still see all the small(blood) floaters and the few spidery ones but hope itll be fine. Never had flashing lights just saw stars after coughing twice!
February 26, 2010 | B Webster
Thanks for the reading on your retinal detachments. I am recovering from having had a retina detachment 2 weeks ago and your description of your experience has been quite infomative. Great pictures!
February 14, 2010 | Lynn in Honolulu
Thanks David. That all helped me to get some perspective on whats happening to me right now.
Good luck to you
January 4, 2010 | Peter wright
I have just read your account of your retina detachments.
I experienced a retina tear in my left eye in 2004 at age 55. It was quickly repaired by laser treatment.
In 2005 I had a retina detachment in the same eye. This was fixed in emergency surgery. The surgeon did a vitrectomy and inserted a gas bubble. He even did cataract repair/lens implant while he was at it. All this while conscious, albeit sedated. I didn't see any needles, etc as my face was covered and the left eye's optic nerve blocked by local anaethetic. The patch was off within 24 hours and I was driving within a week. The gas dissipated within 8 weeks. My recovery was 100% and my eyesight improved.
This year, in May 2009, I had cataract surgery in my right eye at age 60. That went well, but three weeks later June 4, 2009, I experienced the symptoms of retina detachment in that eye. I was operated on within 24 hours. Same surgical format, same surgeon. The gas bubble is still dissipating as I write this, but the surgery again has been deemed 100% successful.
Hopefully people will read your experiences and learn the symptoms of retina detachment before its too late. Flashing lights, floaters, near-sightedness, cataract surgery, are all risks and indicators of retina detachment.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
August 3, 2009 | Rob Thompson
Thanks for taking the time to write about your experience. I found it very helpful. I just had the freezing, bubble and laser for my retina two days ago.
June 6, 2009 | Kristin
My Spanish partner has had two retinal tears in a month and was lasered back together again. We have found it hard work getting information and a prognosis from his doctor here in Spain so discovering your website was indeed a great find. Obviously each person is unique and their experience with this problem is too, but I just wanted to thank you for going to the trouble of posting what you went through. Your story was tremendously helpful and positive, despite all the problems you encountered and we sincerely hope that you continue in good health.
May 27, 2009 | Suzan
Thanks so much for your info on retinal detachment. Like others I met at Sydney Eye Hospital Emergency, I had no idea of the seriousness of a blurry eye with a few flashes, until my retina detached. I'm now recovering from my second op which included a vitrectomy and after 4 weeks and 2 gas bubbles can finally walk around for more than 5 minutes at a time! What a great reminder of how much we all take for granted in our lives, and how vulnerable we are. Thanks also for the remainder of your website that I found fascinating. Best wishes, Clare from Sydney.
April 1, 2009 | Clare (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you refer to the 6th paragraph under the sub-heading 'Update January 2006' in my Detached Retina story, you will see some references to the differing opinions of doctors about flying after suffering a detached retina.
To answer your question specifically, yes, I am still doing a lot of flying and it hasn't caused me any problems in the last three years.
Cheers . . . David
March 12, 2009 | David Astley
I read your story about the retina detachment. I went through the same thing 3 times and didn't fly since because I am scared. Are you flying and yoyu are doing okay?
March 6, 2009 | helena
Hi David -
Great info on your detached retina experience. I too had a detached retina in my right eye in late 1997. I had the laser welding done - I thought it felt like someone jamming a knitting needle into the back of your head! Luckily nothing major has happened since.
My vision recovered pretty well, although not totally, and I get the wavy disruption to straight lines too - looking at a sheet of graph paper reminds me every time.
We are so lucky to have retained our vision, and those who have 20/20 sight have no idea how lucky they are to see the world with such clarity.
Hope your eyes remain well,
Magellan Mine Site
June 10, 2008 | Rick Burlow
I'm surprised that your consultant told you he/she is not certain what causes the flashing in your eye. The eye surgeons that have operated on my eyes have all told me that it is caused by the vitreous jelly pulling on the retina - so I didn't think there was any doubt about what causes the flashing. In fact, it is that action of the vitreous jelly pulling on the retina that causes the detachment in the first place, which is why a retinal detachment is usually accompanied by flashing in the eye.
Yes, it should settle in time, once the vitreous jelly has fully detached from the retina. One eye doctor told me that shouldn't take more than 6-8 weeks, but I still have flashing in my right eye more than two years after the vitreous detachment started in that eye, so for some people it can last a lot longer.
Regards . . . David
April 25, 2008 | David Astley
Many thanks for posting your story re. your retina traumas. It serves as a fantastic warning to anyone that if they ever experience a black curtain or strange light flashes within their eye/s to get themselves straight to casualty. Until it happened to me I didn't realise just how much I took my eyesight for granted and how frightening it is to think about the possibility of losing your sight. I came across your story whilst searching on the internet for some support after recently having the "buckle" op for my detached retina. Like yourself, I still get a lot of flashing in the eye which really freaks me out at times. My Consultant says that it will hopefully settle in time although they are not certain why it happens but think that it may be as a result of the brain getting confused! I wish you all the very best for the future and hope that your eye traumas are now well and truly over. Thanks again.
April 1, 2008 | Kath
Hi David , having just experienced a retinal tear ,myself , along with all the symptoms and laser treatments, as described by you ,I found it strangely comforting to know that others have had the same problems and worrying moments as I have .Thanks for sharing it with us . Best regards Geoff Hickling Kiama Australia
March 9, 2008 | Geoff Hickling
David- Thank you for the posting /article about your detached retina experience. I am very near sighted (-10) and need cataract surgery soon... This increases the chances of a detached retina to about 6% (I have heard). Your article was very helpful in understanding what to expect if this should happen.
November 21, 2007 | anna
Thanks for your excellent description of the treatment for detached retinas. I suffered a torn retina in December 2006, but the symptoms were so dramatic (brown streaks in my field of vision) that I saw the eye doctor soon after. I had two laser treatments in that eye and so far, so good. Just this past Monday I had to have laser surgery on my right eye. This time the symptoms were not as dramatic and I'd had a retina tear but didn't know it. When I saw the zillions of black dots in my field of vision I saw the retina specialist that day and had laser surgery. The only concern is that a lot of fluid collected behind the tear so it is actually partially detached, and it has to be watched to be sure the fluid goes down. Your description of the detached retina surgery is so frightening, but I'm so glad you gave a first hand account of it. It's difficult for me to go through something like this and have people not understand what it's like and how scary it is to risk losing your eyesight. On Monday after I had the eye surgery my boss asked me to come back to work to finish the day. He just doesn't understand what it's all about. Now I plan to let people read your description so they know what it's really like. I hope you and your eyes are both well and that your vision improves. Thanks so much again for this website.
August 19, 2007 | Lisa W
Hi, I am a paramedic student in Canada, I just wanted to let you know that your description of retinal detachment was very enlightneing for me, we touch on a number of pathologies and specialize in none, so if we wish to learn more we need to look it up on our own. Your unfortunate story was very helpful to me, I will treat such symptoms as an emergency.
September 16, 2006 | James Anderson
I had my retina detachment operation done 3 weeks ago. As my doc did not explain much I decided to find out more. Your story have enlighten some of my worries. I guess I'm lucky that I did not go thru' the kind of pain you had. The small retina tear was detacted at an early stage but the laser treatment didn't help. Not sure whether its because the doc did not do a good job. Anyway 2 weeks later the retina detach and I had to go thru' the buckle and freeze operation. It feels O.K now but I do still see some floaters. Thanks for taking time to write about your experience it helps me alot.
December 20, 2005 | Hanni Pek
Aside from travelling, photography and gardening, another interest that I'm passionate about is world music, and Asian music in particular - which can be everything from Chinese classical music to Tibetan mantras.
One of the great pleasures of travelling is the opportunity to listen to music from different countries. There is so much music that is composed and performed by artists around the world that we never get to hear in the countries where we live. Finding such music that appeals to your own personal taste can be like searching for a needle in a haystack, but once in a while you come across a real ‘gem’ that you will never hear on your local radio station.
I recall when I first visited Mongolia , I was given a CD of that country’s most renowned folk singers, Namjiliin Norovbanzad, performing four of Mongolia ’s best traditional songs in what is known as ‘Bogino Duu’ style. Apart from a few Joni Mitchell songs, I have never been particularly keen on folk music, so I wasn’t expecting much when I slipped it into my car CD player when I got home. But I was blown away by it! Namjiliin Norovbanzad has one of the most incredible vocal techniques that I have ever heard, and I found myself listening to her songs over and over again.
For years I have collected CDs of Tibetan mantras, but discovering the voice of Namjiliin Norovbanzad whetted my appetite to search for more world music.
I have collected every Buddha Bar compilation published to date, and hope there will be many more releases in the years to come.
My current top ten World Music tracks, according to my iTunes playlist, are as follows:
1. Jaahan sharga (Namjiliin Norovbanzad)
2. Mantra of Avalokiteshvara (Song Huei Liou & Ya Ging Ging)
3. (A Passage To...) Tibet ( Tibet Project)
4. Monsoon (Flam)
5. Anni Rose (Tulku)
6. Amatevi (Agricantus)
7. Por-Do-Sol (Cellar 55)
8. Hanshan Temple (Jin Long Uen & Song Hhuei Liou)
9. Yeha Noha (Sacred Spirit)
10. La Fille De Pékin (Frédérick Rousseau)
If you know of similar music by artists not listed above, I’d very much appreciate you letting me know about it.
Here are links to a couple of good World Music websites:
I have not included above any tracks by Enigma or Deep Forest, because many would say they should not be classified as World Music, but as New Age or Alternative music (although both have won World Music awards).
My favourite Enigma tracks are:
Principles Of Lust
Principles Of Lust - Sadeness (Reprise)
Callas Went Away
Back To The Rivers Of Belief – Hallelujah
Back To The Rivers Of Belief - The Rivers Of Belief
The Rivers Of Belief (The Returning Silence)
The Eyes Of Truth
Return To Innocence
I Love You ... I'll Kill You
The Dream Of The Dolphin
Age Of Loneliness (Carly's Song)
Out From The Deep
The CROSS of Changes
Here is a link to a good site about Enigma and its music: http://www.enigmamusic.com
My favourite Deep Forest tracks are:
Sweet Lullaby Night Bird
The First Twilight
The Second Twilight
Sweet Lullaby (Ambient Mix)
Will You Be Ready
Most of those tracks are from their first albums, Deep Forest, released in 1992, and Boheme, released in 1995. I was lucky enough to see Deep Forest perform live in Brisbane, Australia, in October 1996, which was on their first world tour and only their fourth live performance.
It was around that time that the group seemed to be changing to a more ‘synthetic' style, without the same level of orchestration and vocals from native performers, and I have been disappointed with what they have produced since then. There was almost nothing that I liked on their Music Detected and Pacifique albums - most of the tracks sounded like computer music to me. I’d be interested to know if there are any other performers out there with a similar style to that of Deep Forest ’s early days.
Here is a link to a good site about Deep Forest and its music: http://www.deepforestmusic.com
Aside from listening to music from different parts of the world, I enjoy quite a lot of contemporary rock and popular music, especially Boyce Avenue, Coldplay, Lana Del Rey, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift (don't laugh!) and Tina Arena. Amongst older artists that I still like to listen to are Bryan Adams, Phil Collins, The Cranberries, Julee Cruise, Eurythmics, Genesis, Annie Lennox, Bruce Springsteen, Sting, Era and Zucchero. And I'll even listen to a little country music once in a while - Shania Twain and Lady Antebellum being my favourites there.