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These weird spots and jagged lines are scaring me!
Have you ever seen a temporary black spot in your vision? How about jagged white lines? Something that looks like heat waves shimmering in your peri...

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If you are seeing the 3 F’s, you might have a retinal tear or detachment and you should have an eye exam quickly.

The 3 F’s are:

  • Flashes - flashing lights.
  • Floaters - dozens of dark spots that persist in the center of your vision.
  • Field cut – a curtain or shadow that usually starts in peripheral vision that may move to involve the center of vision.

The retina is the nerve tissue that lines the inside back wall of the eye and if there is a break in the retina, fluid can track underneath the retina and separate it from the eye wall. Depending on the location and degree of retinal detachment, there can be very serious vision loss.

If you have a new onset of any of the three symptoms above, you need to get in for an appointment fairly quickly (very quickly if there are two or more symptoms).

If you have just new flashes or new floaters you should be seen in the next few days. If you have both new flashes and new floaters or any field cut, you should be seen in the next 24 hours.

When you go to the office for an exam, your eyes will be dilated. A dilated eye exam is needed to examine the retina and the periphery. This may entail a scleral depression exam where gentle pressure is applied to the outside of the eye to examine the peripheral retina. Some people have a hard time driving after dilation.   since the dilating drops may last up to 6 hours, so you may want to have someone drive you to and from your appointment.

If the exam shows a retina tear, treatment would be a laser procedure to encircle the tear.

If a retinal tear is not treated in a timely manner, then it will progress into a retinal detachment. There are four treatment options for retinal detachment:

· Laser.  A small retinal detachment can be walled off with a barrier laser to prevent further spread of the fluid and the retinal detachment.  

· Pneumatic retinopexy. This is an office-based procedure that requires injecting a gas bubble inside the eye.  The patient then needs to position his or her head for the gas bubble to reposition the retina back along the inside wall of the eye. A freezing or laser procedure is then performed around the retinal break. This procedure has about 70% to 80% success rate, but not everyone is a good candidate for a pneumatic retinopexy.

· Scleral buckle.  This is a surgery that needs to be performed in the operating room. This procedure involves placing a silicone band around the outside of the eye to bring the eye wall closer to the retina. The retinal tear is then treated with a freezing procedure.  

· Vitrectomy. In this surgery, the gel - the vitreous inside the eye - is removed and the fluid underneath the retina is drained. The retinal tear is then treated with either a laser or freezing procedure. At the completion of the surgery, a gas bubble fills the eye to hold the retina in place.  The gas bubble will slowly dissipate over several weeks.  Sometimes a scleral buckle is combined with a vitrectomy surgery.

Prognosis

The final vision after retinal detachment repair is usually dependent on whether the center of the retina - called the macula - is involved. If the macula is detached, then there is usually some decrease in final vision after reattachment. Therefore, a good predictor is initial presenting vision. We recommend that anyone with symptoms of retinal detachments (flashes, floaters, or field cuts) have a dilated eye exam. The sooner the diagnosis is made, the better the treatment outcome.

Article contributed by Dr. Jane Pan

Stewart Family Eye Care

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Ask Dr. Stewart Your Eye Care Questions

What can be expected during a contact lens fitting?

A patient can expect to have a different experience when having a contact lens fitting. In addition to the eyeglass exam, questions will be asked to determine which contact lens will work best for them. Will they want to leave the lenses in their eyes overnight or will they remove them every day? Will they wear them only occasionally or will they be for everyday use? Do they want a contact lens that they throw away every day or do they want a contact lens that they have to clean and disinfect? If the patient is over age 40 and has a compromised ability to see up close, how will they see up close with their contact lenses? Will they wear readers over their distant contacts, or will they wear multifocal contacts, or will they wear monovision?

Are some people more prone to having Dry Eyes than others?

Experiencing dry eye symptoms is more common as we grow older, particularly in people 50 years of age and older. Hormonal changes in women who are experiencing menopause or who are post-menopausal. Inflammation in our body can affect the tear gland's ability to produce tears. Eye or health conditions such as glaucoma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's Syndrome can be associated with Dry Eyes. Environmental conditions such as dry winter air, dry indoor heated air, working on the computer, and wearing contact lenses can cause Dry Eyes.

Are there advantages to single-use contact lenses? What are they?

Single-use daily wear contacts are convenient to the patient and a healthy recommendation from their eye doctor. At the end of the day, the patient only has to dispose of the contacts. There is no need to take the contacts out to clean and disinfect them. The patients time and money spent on solutions and caring for them are eliminated. Not to mention that the next time they wear a contact, they will be wearing a brand new contact! The single best recommendation your eye doctor can make is to recommend single-use daily wear contacts. They are the healthiest contact that can be worn. The contact lens pathology issues of wearing the same contact for two or four weeks such as neovascularization, microcystic edema, and bacterial infections are greatly reduced.

What is an eye infection?

Your eyes can get infections from bacteria, fungi, or viruses. Eye infections can occur in different parts of the eye and can affect just one eye or both. Two common eye infections are conjunctivitis (also known as pink eye) and lid styes which are swollen lid bumps that can also be painful. Common signs of an eye infection are pain, itching, or a sensation of a foreign body in the eye, photosensitivity, redness or small red lines in the white of the eye, discharge of yellow pus that may be crusty upon awaking, and tears.

What happens during a typical Diabetic Eye Exam?

Your Eye Doctor will evaluate the back of your eye called the Retina to check for leaking blood vessels. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when elevated blood sugars damage the walls of the blood vessels. The vessel walls may thicken, leak, develop clots, close off, or grow balloon-like defects called microaneurysms.

My eyes tear all the time. Why do you call it Dry Eyes?

Your eyes have extra tears because your eyes produce extra tears to combat irritation and dryness. A better way to describe Dry Eyes is tear film instability, which refers to the composition of your tears not being in the proper composition. Stopping eyes from producing extra tears is a goal in the treatment of Dry Eyes.

At what age should my child have his/her eyes examined?

If you ask 10 different Doctors you will get 10 different answers. Newborns have their eyes checked in the birthing ward for starters. From birth to age 5 their eyes are growing. At age 5 is a good time to schedule a regular eye examination, however, if any unusual eye behavior is observed under age 5 an eye exam should be scheduled at that time. Unusual eye behavior such as eye squinting, a head tilt, or having to get close to see.