When the Eye Doctor has Vision Loss

01 May

Profile portrait of Dr. HenahanA Sudden Change

As an eye doctor, I have advised thousands of patients on just about every type of vision problem that can occur. I have always tried to be sensitive to the anxiety that can accompany the possibility that someone might be losing vision. But I had never experienced vision loss on my own, until now.

In the last month I had a frightening loss of vision in my left eye. One evening, I was sitting at the kitchen table with my wife making summer vacation plans on the computer when a sudden blinding flash seemed to go off in front of my eyes. I was immediately unable to see the computer screen.  After a few moments, I excused myself and went to lay down.  With my eyes closed I perceived the characteristic shimmering crescent that accompanies a visual migraine.  Feeling relieved, I went to bed for the evening believing that all would be well in the morning.

I was wrong.

The next morning, as soon as I got out of bed I knew something wasn’t right.  A small blind spot in my left eye was interfering with my ability to perform almost any normal task, especially reading and writing.  I found myself having to look around the blind spot in order to write in a patient exam chart.  Looking at backlit computer screens was especially difficult.  The screen seemed to make the blind spot feel even worse.  I had to turn the brightness on my laptop way down in order to be able to work.

The Mystery Deepens

As soon as I had a moment, I performed a series of diagnostic tests on my eye.  All of the tests were normal.  This made me much more nervous, because the absence of an obvious problem in my eye combined with the migraine like symptoms at the onset of symptoms pointed toward a possible problem in the vision portion of my brain.

I decided to have a specialized eye doctor called a retina specialist evaluate me before getting an MRI.  John Miller, MD at the Peachtree City office of Georgia Retina evaluated my eye for any issues that might be causing the blind spot but found nothing.

At this point, I was really starting to fear for the worst, such as a mini-stroke to my brain or even some type of tumor.  It was very difficult to wait the four days until my appointment for the MRI.  Finally, the time arrived for me to be seen by Outpatient Imaging in Newnan.  The scans took about 45 minutes.  Much to my relief, the scans did not show any damage to the visual portions of my brain from a mini-stroke or tumor.

I felt massively relieved, as I did not have to worry about any serious problems that might be associated with a brain tumor. On the other hand, the vision problem was still vexing me.

Another review of my scans with Dr. Miller suggested that some subtle tugging of the vitreous gel on the retina could be causing the problem and would likely resolve on it’s own.

Getting older

The eyeball is filled with a gel like substance called the vitreous.  When we are born, the vitreous perfectly homogenous.  As we age, it starts to shrink and pull away from its weak attachment to the outer wall of the eye.  In my eye, the gel has partially pulled away, and the area where it is still hanging on corresponds to my new “blind spot”.  The blind spot has become much less bothersome in the three weeks since I first noticed it, partially because I have acclimated to it and partially because it seems to be improving.

Just like many of my patients, I am aging.  I am surprised by just how atypical my symptoms are relative to what most experience as the vitreous gel detaches.  It serves an excellent reminder that things can present in a variety of different ways.  Careful listening, a careful exam and the help of other experts when needed can make all the difference.

If you have questions about your vision, feel free to contact Dr. Henahan at Spectrum Eyecare.  The website is www.speceye.com and the phone number is 770-487-0667.

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One Response to “When the Eye Doctor has Vision Loss”

  1. Audrey Demmitt August 28, 2014 at 4:04 pm #

    Wow! You had me worried there for a minute! So sorry you had this experience but as you concluded, it is a great reminder to listen to and assess patients carefully. You are very good at that anyway and I have always appreciated how you approach figuring out what is best for each patient and how you are able to think “out of the box.”

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