How can I best deal with vision loss in one eye due to "floaters"?
January 3, 2017 7:05 PM   Subscribe

I have "floaters" in my left eye which are affecting my vision more and more over time. My job consists 90% of staring at a computer screen or driving. Both of which make my left eye mess up my vision. What things can I do to accommodate this as I stare at screens or drive?

1. This is not an acute eye issue, it's ongoing and getting worse.

2. I have a good optometrist and another check next week.

3. So far as I know, there is no cure. To qoute Lethal Weapon, "Basically, I'm fucked."

4. My job is either staring at a computer screen (95%) or driving hundreds of miles to talk to people. Which means that my left eye "blurs" and I lose the two mile detail if the car in front is braking or switching lanes to avoid deer or a wreck

If you have experienced this I would be open for suggestions.

I need modifications ideas, not, "Go see another doctor."

posted by ITravelMontana to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
How about "go see a doctor RIGHT AWAY"? Floaters can be a precursor to retinal detachment. Retinal detachment is something that needs to be treated immediately.

It's not something to mess around with -- you could lose all your vision. Don't mess around and be a hero. I know someone who waited and wishes they'd had it checked out earlier.
posted by Borborygmus at 7:17 PM on January 3, 2017 [13 favorites]

Excessive floaters can be treated with a vitrectomy. The procedure is risky, but if your floaters are interfering with your vision to the point of disability anyway then perhaps it would be worth considering.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:29 PM on January 3, 2017

I had excessive floaters years ago. I rushed to my ophthalmologist because he thought it might be retinal detachment. It was not. He said it would clear up and it did. And no problems for years.
posted by JayRwv at 7:42 PM on January 3, 2017

I really don't want to pile-on the point you said you don't want addressed, but before you shoo off advice to "go see another doctor," I really hope you see a doctor. Because an optometrist, however good, is not a medical doctor and you have a medical problem that is potentially disabling.

If you have done this/do this and find yourself in the same position: based on my experience with episodic floaters, reducing your screen brightness and contrast may help somewhat, and it might be worth checking out computer glasses with a bit of magnification. Candidly, I do not think you should be driving with significant floaters without modification/advice from a qualified medical professional.
posted by LadyInWaiting at 7:55 PM on January 3, 2017 [5 favorites]

Nthing the "go see an ophthalmologist, not just an optometrist" thing. I'm diabetic and I see both, every year.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:04 PM on January 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

Just so you're crystal clear on how important this is, I'm going to say what's already been said. An optometrist is not a doctor. You need an ophthalmologist.

My mom had a retinal tear (not detachment, but a tear can lead to detachment). The tear was repaired, but the the floaters (in fact a full "veil" of floaters) did not pass, probably because she is on blood thinners. Anyway, she had minor surgery to basically flush out the blood etc. and clear it all away. She had cataract surgery at the same time because, though her cataracts weren't at the stage where they would normally bother to operate yet, they were already in there, so why not?

I have no doubt that your optometrist can't do anything about your floaters, but it's possible that a doctor can. And even if they can't, you need to be seen by a doctor.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:25 PM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

And yeah, this isn't "go see another doctor" advice. It's "go see a first doctor because the person you're seeing is not a doctor."
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:26 PM on January 3, 2017 [8 favorites]

Also saying go see an ophthalmologist: my "gee, you might have a retinal detachment but it's probably not a problem..." turned out to be ocular melanoma, aka eye cancer, which is not a thing to fuck with.

So, yeah, go see a surgeon.
posted by jrochest at 9:11 PM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, to deal with the "the fuck I can't SEE" issue, at least when using the computer: get an eye patch. Part of the problem is that your brain is trying to build an image out of the crappy imagery your bad eye is producing and to integrate it into the information coming from your good eye. I have crappy vision in the OM eye, which had radiation therapy and consequently is going blind in a patchy way. I find that it's much easier to function with only one eye on the days when it's really bad.

Don't try to drive with the patch, though. Depth perception is really, really important.
posted by jrochest at 9:15 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

GO SEE A DR BEFORE YOU SUFFER PERMANENT IRREVERSIBLE VISION LOSS. GP first to check for eye infection/Diabetes, then ophthalmologist to check for glaucoma etc etc...

While you're waiting:

stop using contact lenses: switch to glasses

use saline eye drops - dry eyes may be making the problem worse.
posted by Sockpuppets 'R' Us at 10:10 PM on January 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

"1. This is not an acute eye issue, it's ongoing and getting worse. "

How long ongoing? I had vision-blocking floaters in one eye, terrifying, but after a thorough exam to rule out retinal detachment or other issues, the doctor told me that "as we age" (first time I ever heard that phrase!) clumps of cells detach and float down through the vitreous fluid and that if I waited it out, gravity would eventually pull them down out of my central vision. It took months and months, but eventually they did sink out of sight.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:22 PM on January 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I suddenly got a bunch of floaters when I was in my twenties, and it was like being surrounded by a swarm of angry bees all the time. Absolutely awful. I don't think they ever went away, I just got used to them. When I think about them now they'll show up and fill my vision, but as long as I don't think about them I don't notice them much. So even if these floaters don't go away, it's not unlikely you'll just stop seeing them.

This is probably plain ol' floaters, but I'd still suggest seeing an ophthalmologist just to be safe. I don't think floaters should be causing blurring that obscures your vision so you can't drive. Dry eyes can cause sudden blurriness, and maybe this is that. But it's definitely something to mention to a doctor. Assuming this is nothing dangerous I'd say try to wait it out and see if you can get used to it before you try any surgeries.

Sunglasses will help. Try wearing them indoors, when you're working on a computer, and definitely outdoors and when driving. Experiment with different tints and darknesses. (You can get sunglasses at the 99 cent store that are just as good as the fancy kind.) It may also help to let your windshield get a little dirty. No joke, the floaters will blend in with all the specks and dust and be less distracting. (Plus it's an excuse to not wash your car very often.) Some specks and dust can help with all sorts of glass or shiny things. Computer screens, mirrors, whatever. Getting some smudges or specks on the lenses of your sunglasses can be helpful. Embrace your inner slob and let the grunge pile up on everything around you. If you're really going nuts from floaters, try to limit your time in the sunshine. Nights and dim indoor lighting are best.

Seriously, I have a gazillion floaters. They used to make me nuts, but they have almost no impact on my life now. Try to relax and be patient.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 2:32 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Apologies if this is alarmist. I got hit in the eye this summer, and one of the things my eye doctor told me to COME IN IMMEDIATELY for was an increase in floaters. Please push this at your next checkup, or actively seek out a second opinion. It's better to be safe than sorry--your vision is important!
posted by Stephanie Duy at 3:58 AM on January 4, 2017

Yeah, sorry to jump on reiterating the thing you don't want to hear, but any perceptible change in vision and/or a worsening of an existing condition is a reason for an emergency visit with an ophthalmologist. This is not alarmist. Retinal detachment is no joke and is a very real possibility. Think about how much harder things will be if you lose vision in that eye irreversibly and completely. It's possible that this is not linked to anything like retinal detachment, but this sounds worrisome, is interfering with your daily life, and may be solved with the proper care. So, for your own sake, don't wait until next week and don't limit your care to an optometrist who is not really qualified to address your concerns. Frankly, it's bad care on your optometrist's part not to insist that you see an opthamologist. Also, just for some background, I have occassional floaters which are not of any real consequence, but this doesn't sound like that. I also have a blind mother who had emergency eye surgery, post-blindness, which is still traumatic even if it didn't involve additional vision loss. So, my perspective is that you don't delay eye care. See an opthamologist immediately and try to limit driving because that's dangerous for you (and others on the road) right now. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 5:13 AM on January 4, 2017

Once an ophthalmologist has determined that these are just floaters and not symptoms of something else, ask your optometrist about adding prisms to your eyeglass prescription. This has helped me immensely with a large left-eye floater/retinal pucker, which caused blurring and double vision. My vision still isn't perfect, but it's vastly improved.
posted by elphaba at 5:36 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Resolved. Thanks.
posted by ITravelMontana at 10:26 AM on January 4, 2017

tell us what the resolution was!
posted by lalochezia at 10:52 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

"tell us what the resolution was!"

Well, to start:

Ignoring everyone who missed the opening of,

"1. This is not an acute eye issue, it's ongoing.

2. I have a good optometrist and another check next week."

So thanks, I'll take if from here and not run to the ER. I am seeing my optometrist on Friday and may then go to an ophthalmologist. Like some said, it's an aging issue.

I also appreciate the many suggestions for how to work with modifications on the computer. I'm already doing the driving suggestions, The left eye floater problem isn't handling traffic in town, it's staring forward for 400-600 miles in a day on lonely highways, having the floaters possibly block an elk or deer coming out of the left ditch a mile or two down the Montana road.

Thanks again to the hive mind.

posted by ITravelMontana at 7:17 PM on January 5, 2017

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