Austin Retina Associates’ Patient Warns Others Not To Ignore Changes in Vision
Over the past year, medical providers have reported an increase in delayed medical care due to pandemic-related fear. Ignoring symptoms and postponing appointments has resulted in serious health concerns for many patients.Anna Stehle, a behavioural unit teacher, almost lost her eyesight after ignoring problems with her vision. “I remember walking into my garage while it was still dark outside and seeing a flash of light, “Anna explained. “I thought it was strange, but it didn’t register that something could be wrong with my vision at that point.”
Anna experienced flashes and floaters in her right eye for almost a week. She didn’t take the symptoms too seriously because they were intermittent, and she didn’t experience any pain. “I honestly didn’t think I was in serious trouble,” Anna recalled.
Then, her vision started to go dark on the bottom corner of her eye, which prompted her to schedule an appointment with an optometrist. She was eventually diagnosed with a retinal tear and retinal detachment by an ophthalmologist. “The doctor pretty much told me to get out of his office and get to Austin Retina Associates right away,” Anna said.
Dr. Philip Storey, a board-certified ophthalmologist and fellowship-trained retina surgeon with Austin Retina Associates, took Anna into surgery that same day. “Anna’s giant retinal tear was one of the largest I’ve seen,” Dr. Storey explains. “The tear covered over half of her retina which is why emergency retinal detachment repair surgery was necessary.”
A retinal detachment can be thought of as wallpaper that has come off the wall. In order to re-attach the retina, Dr. Storey used a heavy liquid to squeeze the fluid out from behind the retina. Then he used a laser to tack down the retina and help seal it in place.
“While the retina is healing, it needs to be supported by a bubble; the bubble holds the retina in place just like a cast holds a broken bone,” Dr. Storey explains. “Gas or silicone oil can be used for the bubble. For Anna, I used silicone oil because her tear was so large.”
Anna’s recovery wasn’t easy. Following surgery, she had to lay face down for 45 minutes out of every hour for seven days to allow her retina to attach to the oil.
Once Anna’s retina healed, Dr. Storey performed a second surgery to remove the silicone oil and replace it with air, which helps maintain the pressure of the eye. “The air evaporates in about a week and the eye fills itself with fluid it produces from the front of the eye,” Dr. Storey says.
Anna’s vision is now 20/50 and she is forever thankful for her eyesight. She warns others to not ignore symptoms when it has to do with your eyes. “I didn’t know I was at risk of losing my eyesight,” Anna said. Dr. Storey agrees, “it is imperative if you have new flashes, new floaters, or experience changes in your visual field, like a curtain coming over your eye, you should come see a retina specialist right away.”
FAQs About Retinal Tears
What are flashes?
Flashes can look like flashing lights or lightning streaks in your field of vision. They happen when the vitreous, or gel in the central part of the eye, rubs or pulls on your retina.
What are floaters?
Floaters appear as small specks, dots, lines, or cobwebs in your field of vision. They are composed of tiny clumps of gel or cells inside the vitreous that fills your eye. While they seem to be in front of your eye, they are actually floating inside and casting shadows on your retina.
What is a retinal tear?
The retina is the layer of cells that line the back of the eye. It receives light coming into the eye and converts it to an electrical signal that is sent to the brain so you can see. Retinal tears are caused by the gel in the eye sticking to the retina then pulling away. Fluid can pass through the tear and cause the retina to detach. A retina tear cannot be prevented, but when caught early, it can be treated to prevent a retinal detachment.
What is a retinal detachment?
Retinal detachment occurs when the retina separates from the back of the eye. Early signs of a detached retina include flashes and floaters. People with advanced detachments will see a dark shadow in their peripheral vision that gradually gets larger over time. A detached retina requires immediate medical attention to prevent loss of vision and/or blindness.