In-sights and Old Eyeballs

Just sit back and enjoy the show
Just sit back and enjoy the show

I don’t remember having any symptoms before a routine office visit to the local optometrist back in 1995 when he detected early signs of a detached retina. Within a week, I was having laser surgery to weld the retina in place to solve the problem.

Every time I see our local optometrist in Floyd (Mondays and Tuesdays in a permanent office in what was originally a suite at the Pine Tavern) he asks “are you seeing any floaters or flashes of light?” and I’ve always been able to say NO.

Until yesterday. At first I thought a gnat had just passed in front of my eye, and I brushed it away. Then a cobweb must have caught on my eye lashes, I thought, and brushed it away. It was occasional. Then frequent. Then constant. And I began to think this was not a good thing.

No flashes of light or blurred vision. That, it turns out, would have ramped up the urgency of this episode considerably.

Long story short, after I got home yesterday afternoon from a tiring morning, I didn’t think I could risk waiting until next week for an appraisal of my new and growing floaters (more strings and webs than spots and specks) so I got back in the car for the 45 minute drive down Bent Mountain to Roanoke and the optometrist worked me in.

Many stinging eye drops and an hour later: Nothing to worry about, he said, much to my surprise and relief.

“For folks who are 60 about 60% of them will have this issue, at 70, about 70%. The vitreous humor has some strands in it, in your case right over the optic nerve. It may resorb, or your brain in time may just learn to not attend to the wavy lines you see today.”

Even so, I think it might be wise to see the Ophthalmologist Ann saw in Blacksburg when she had that strange episode of double vision a few years back. Then, if something urgent were needed in the future, I’d already have a file with the specialist.

So, for my age peers, when the spiders, bugs, webs and broken shadowy shards appear in front of your aging eyes, just sit back and enjoy the show. It’s what we do for entertainment in our golden years, I suppose. Live and learn.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I can truly sympathize. Several years ago I experienced flashing lights and sensitivity to auto headlights. Saw the local eye doctor who promptly sent me to Lexington where the horseshoe tear in the retina was lasered back into place. Not six months later, it happened in the other eye as well. From those experiences, I’ve acquired a huge dark redtail hawk that flys at me from the side in one eye and a donut and a jellyfish that float around in the other one. Vision blurs when they move directly in front. A rolling of the eyes will shift them out of center stage…temporarily. Of course, doing that sometimes garners strange looks from those who might be in front of me. Just another of the joys of growing older.

  2. Me too Carrie. Mine are so bad at times, it’s like looking through a lace curtain being blown by the wind. What is worse is these slow-growing cataracts which my eye Doctor says will need to be surgically removed very soon if I intend to keep on driving my car.

  3. Just discovered you and can’t get enough of your writings. My Father’s entire family was from Floyd and I have recently had yearnings to return to where I think I ultimately belong. Having spent my adulthood in Wash.D.C. and since retiring, I can’t seem to find my place in the world, but something keeps pulling me back of the mountains. Where do you come from and when did you move to Floyd and how can I find out more. I first starting looking in Danville, but Floyd keeps calling – I want a small place, I want chickens too, a garden, but need to feel safe, as I live alone. Would love to hear from you – know you’re busy. I’m selling my place in SW Florida, can’t wait to get out of here and back to nature. Sorry to ramble so. Hope you can find time to communicate with me. Love your postings. I don’t have a website, etc.