Flashers and floaters - aging sucks!

terriksFebruary 27, 2012

Sometimes I think that we should all be given a book of "Things that can happen to you as you age", so that you know what to worry about and what not to.

Last week we went on a quick trip to Mexico. While we were at the airport waiting for our second flight of the day on our way to Mexico, I thought that there was some kind of thread hanging in my hair. Then the thread seemed to be in my eye. I realized that this must be a "floater" which I had heard about, but also hoped I would be spared from experiencing. A few hours later I remembered that the day before I had experienced a few flashes of light in the same area of my eye. At the time I thought that it was some weird flickering of the lights of the store that I was in, and I didn't think much of it, as I had to get home and finish packing. But then I remember hearing once that floaters accompanied by the flashes of light could be a sign of retinal detachment, which is a medical emergency, and can cause blindness.

So I worried about it a bit after we arrived at our resort, but tried to put it out of my mind.

The next morning I Googled "retinal detachment" and found this on WebMD:

What Are the Symptoms of a Detached Retina?

Symptoms of a detached retina include:

Flashes of light

Showering effect of floaters (small flecks or threads) in the visual field.

Darkening of the peripheral visual field.

There is no pain associated with retinal detachment, but if you experience any of the above listed symptoms, contact your eye doctor immediately.

So I woke my husband up and told him that I thought that we would have to fly home. Then I called my eye doctor. He told me that he was 99.9% sure that it was not retinal detachment, but that I should see an opthamologist to ease my mind. I contacted the resort concierge, and they made me an appointment right away. So I spent the first half day of my short vacation worried and at the doctor's. Fortunately it turns out that I have Vitreous Detachment, which does not carry a threat of blindness, but is one of those annoying aging problems.

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I had the same thing happen about 8 years ago! If it helps, it went away and no change in my vision. I was driving at night to a meeting and thought light from cars on the other side of the road was reflecting off of my bangs.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 7:16PM
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Oh wow. I'm glad it wasn't anything more serious. Welcome to the club of those of us with floaters. I've got the floating threads as well as a vitreous floater which is like a blob of vaseline floating in your vision. Very annoying. What really disgusts me about aging is all the stuff that happens to your skin. I've got weird things popping up here and there and am constantly going to the dermatologist to have things removed. As a former sun worshipper, I am now paying the price with spots and bumps and heaven knows what else.

It would be helpful to have a manual for aging, but on the other hand I don't want to know. As my great aunt used to say, after a certain age it just patch, patch patch. I've spent more time in doctors' offices in the past two years than I have in my whole life.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 7:19PM
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Awe, sorry it interrupted your vacation, but so glad it wasn't something more serious. Yeah there will be little surprises like than now and again but think of it like this, if you got an advance warning all you'd do is worry.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 7:31PM
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I must be spending too much time on Hot Topics! ;-)
I did not know you were talking about your eyes...

Glad it's not more serious --

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 8:33PM
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Oh man, I'm glad it wasn't the detached retina! Sorry it happened while you were on vacation. :(

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 9:09PM
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I must be spending too much time on Hot Topics! ;-)
I did not know you were talking about your eyes...

LOL! I thought that my subject line might be taken the wrong way.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2012 at 10:43PM
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I dont usually notice my floaters unless I am looking up at the white ceiling laying in bed. I also had the flashing, it only happened once to me. I was sitting in my office at work, it scared the bejesus out of me. I worked at a plant where they had a doctor's office on site. I went down immediately, he checked me out and said my eyes were ok, thank god.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 7:11AM
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I haven't experienced either of those - yet! So glad it was not a detached retina but sorry it happened while on vacay!


    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 8:54AM
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Ooo, what a scary thing to happen but at least it had a semi-happy ending - just old age stuff & not a detached retina. What's that old saying? Aging isn't for the faint of heart. I'm with dedtired, if there's a manual I don't want to read it. Besides, the print will probably be too small to see without bifocals.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:17AM
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My dh's eye doctor told him that floaters usually appear when the eyes are tired. He freaked out over his and went to the doctor also. lol.

Now I have them. No flashes though, but I only notice mine (just one) if I've been doing a lot of reading.

Here's one for the books. About ten years ago I saw a spot on my forehead. I thought I had skin cancer and went to the dermatologist ASAP. He started laughing and said it was an age spot!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:46AM
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Sorry this happened to you, Terriks! Aging sucks, for sure! Your posting of this was very timely, though, because my 61 year old SIL called me Saturday, totally freaked out, with exactly the same symptoms. She was seeing the flashing and some floaters in her right eye, and after getting on the Internet, was absolutely convinced that she had a detached retina. No amount of explanation could convince her otherwise, and she was totally obsessed with the idea. She had not had any injury or vision loss or trauma - but she had been reading steadily for two days straight - and she was hysterical. I told her she needed to see an eye doctor asap on Monday, and I have not heard the results of her visit, (if she went, that is), but expect that this is what was happening to her.

She is the type of person who always imagines the extreme worst - we have already gone through episodes of supposed muscular distrophy, cancer, and various other self diagnosed illnesses with her, all for naught, so I am skeptical and a little jaded, I suppose. Unfortunately, there is not much one can do about aging, except to accept it gracefully!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 11:08AM
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I've had floaters since my mid 20's. I can only imagine what will happen as I age more. They are very annoying.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 12:55PM
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My floaters showed up last year and like you I immediately was panicking. I researched online then went to see a doctor and she confirmed they were not serious. I now notice them once in a while so they don't really bother me anymore.

You're right about us needing a book. If I knew what was coming after 40 I would have been better prepared. LOL

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 1:02PM
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About 7 years ago I got a very sudden, strange, visual occurence. I saw a crescent shaped vibrating spectrum of light, that shifted from the right side of my vision to dead centre. It blocked out what would normally appear in the area it covered. I freaked out and went immediately to the E.R., thinking it was a detached retina.

They diagnosed it as an ocular migraine, meaning a variation of a migraine, producing no head (or eye) pain whatsoever. It disappeared within about 20 minutes. I've had it happen twice more since then, both times also resolving in less than a half hour. I do get yearly eye exams and my opthamologist says my eye health is great. These 'visual halucinations' are quite disturbing, but at least they don't cause any damage and aren't painful. It's kind of odd that I get them, since I've never had a migraine and can count the number of headaches I've had in my life on one hand.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 3:29PM
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I get migraines and mine always start with that same visual aura you describe. Once in awhile it stops there and doesn't progress to the head pain.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 3:50PM
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cyn427 (zone 7)

I noticed a floater a couple of months ago, but mostly I notice it first thing in the morning and not every morning at that. The rest of the day, don't see it at all.

Now, what does bug me is that doggone fairy who must come in the night to leave me someone else's tubby belly and, really, whose thighs are these? Jeepers.

I'd be waving good night to all of you except that it makes my arms flap. ;)

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:11PM
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Flappin' back at you, Cyn. Sigh.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:16PM
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pickyshopper, I've also had an ocular migraine. I thought I was having a stroke the first time. There is no headache sensation but You are temporarily blinded. Wierdest thing. And there's nothing to do but wait for it to pass.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 9:54PM
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iammstuck zone 5

@pickeyshopper, sounds like you had a scintillating scotoma, they can start as cresent shapes. Mine were zig zag flashing lines cresent shaped. They are different from the migraine visual auras I have. They are so weird you can't see out of that area of the eye and even if you close your eye it is still there. I never had a headache when I had them.

Here is a link that might be useful: scintillating scotoma

    Bookmark   February 29, 2012 at 9:32PM
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Had cataract surgery with extreme floaters and the light flashes after. This is one of the possible after surgery issues. The had a laser procedure called YAG to get rid of them. But 4 years later and coming back, lights are reflected so bad that I couldn't turn the Christmas tree on. Floaters had been there for years, so they became a norm that do not bother me. Just there and float around as they please. There is one large one that is irritating when it shows up.

I am off the the opthomologist soon, my eyesight is worse the prior to cataracts. Definitely a different doctor too. Yes it is irritating, had 20/20 all my life.

Do follow up at least once a year if possible. As we age, yes things change. Who knows what is next.

I also started getting migraine auras in my mid 50s and the first one was disturbing. It most likely is for anyone who experiences this without knowing they exist. The opthomoligst said this was harmone changes. Age again. My description is like a broken mirror surrounding vision.

I know when they come on that there is a connection for me to what I've been eating. More like out of control eating, chocolate and food with preservatives. Can eat them without the aura showing up, but going beyond the norm will bring one on. Just hope one won't show up while driving.

Interesting that there are posters with this too, I haven't met anyone that understands the deal. It is difficult to explain. And oddly too, my neurologist and physician believes auras are connected in some way to heart problems. They are doing research on this, but I can't find full information on how any of this is connected.

I'm intruding on the original poster, but below is Migraine Aura art. There are many other sites too where migrainers have created the same.

Here is a link that might be useful: Aura art

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 9:52AM
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iammstuck, you are quite right. The E.R. doc referred to it as an ocular migraine, probably because he thought it was easier language to understand, but I definitely did experience scintillating scotoma. Mine didn't originate in my central vision. Both times the flashing started way over to the right, then slowly flashed its way (in a crescent shape) over to the left of my vision, before going out of view.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:04AM
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Wow this topic has gotten a lot of attention! Some years ago, I managed to give myself a floater. I had a really, really bad itch, probably from something that had gotten into my eye, and I rubbed my eye with so much force that I ended up with a floater. I spoke with a physician friend, and he told me that it would probably go away with time. That is indeed what's happening. It's sort of there still, but usually completely unnoticeable, and it's much, much less severe than it had been.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:47AM
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I used to drive home from work (only 10 miles) while experiencing the visual aura. It wasn't a very good idea but if I didn't get myself home before the pain and vomiting started, I would get sick at work (ewwww) and have to wait for someone to come pick me up. And then have to go back later for my car or find another ride in the next morning.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 10:52AM
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I was at work using two computer screens and out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a huge floater go by between the two screens. I thought I don't believe I just read about this on GW and here it's starting for me. Looked up where I thought I had seen it and - eek it was the biggest hairiest looking spider I've ever seen indoors. I have no idea where it went but I was creeped out all day expecting it to snuggle up to me. Ick!

    Bookmark   March 1, 2012 at 1:24PM
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Hello ladies...have floaters, early cataracts (on the side, not the middle, so far), and my father has really bad macular degeneration despite doing everything they say to avoid it which means it's probably something I can look forward to if I'm lucky enough to live that long.

Oddly enough, I had the really bad, debilitating, nauseating kind of migraines since about age 17, my mother had them too -- but since menopause I *haven't* had any! That's pretty much the only way menopause has been a plus for me. The tubby belly and age spots other people have mentioned have taken up residence, I'm afraid.

And java, so it really was a spider??

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 5:16PM
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