About a week ago, I was drying my hair and saw something crawl through my bangs. I slapped at it quickly but it seemed to be nothing. Just my imagination. I didn’t give it much thought until the next morning when I saw it again.
“My eye spider”, as I have come to call it, is now my constant companion and has forced me to answer two important questions: (1) Are eye floaters dangerous? And (2) Is it possible to make peace with a spider living in your eye?
I Was A Little Frightened
First, I made an appointment with an optometrist, relieved that she could see me the following day. In the meantime, I sat in the dark to relieve the constant urge to watch the thing move around in my eye. Watching it gave me a little motion sickness, as the dark spot danced uncontrollably.
Because I didn’t know much about floaters, I was worried, especially when I read that they can be a sign of possible retinal detachment, a serious condition that could lead to blindness if not treated.
People can actually get used to them, I read, but I couldn’t believe it. I have learned in the last week, however, that what we see is greatly determined by our emotional state, what we worry about, and what we think is important. It’s about what we chose to focus on.
My “Spider” Was a Vitreous Detachment
The optometrist dilated my pupil and spent several minutes examining the inside of my eye with an extremely bright light. She had me look left and right, up and down over and over, as she examined the back wall of my eye, the light-sensitive retina, for holes.
Luckily, she said my retina looked fine but asked me to come back in a month so she could examine it again. She explained that I have a “vitreous detachment” meaning that part of the gel-like center of my eye has pulled away from my retina and a piece of it is floating around loose in the gel. She could plainly see it with her bright light. It’s what looks like a spider to me.
Vitreal detachments become common in ones 40s and 50s. The danger, she said, is that when the vitreous pulls away from the back of the eye, it can sometimes tear a hole in the retina in the process.
Beware of Sudden Bright Lights
If this happens, I might see a sudden bright light as the retina is pulled by the vitreous. I would need to see her immediately and it would likely have to be surgically repaired.
In the meantime, I am not to swing my head up or down quickly or do any high impact exercise until my appointment in 4 weeks. She said after that, the danger period should be over and I can return to normal activities.
I asked her about removing the floater with a laser, as I had read as a possible treatment, but she said this was not an option because the floater is located right in front of my macula and optic nerve, and the laser could damage both.
I Was Not Happy About This
I became angry when she said that I would have to get used to the floater. She said it might settle to the bottom of my eye, where I wouldn’t see it anymore, but this could take some time. She wouldn’t say how long.
“But I have a spider in my eye!” I burst out. “How am I supposed to get used to it?” She was sympathetic but said that people have this condition all the time. I said it was dark and big and darted around in my eye exactly like a spider in a web and it drove me crazy! I could even see filaments around it in bright light that looked exactly like a web.
I told her I asked my friends about it and some of them had translucent floaters that were barely noticeable. Nothing like the dark creature that wandered my field of vision. But nothing could be done, so we went home.
Despite my outburst, I was relieved that there was no imminent danger as long as I avoided jolting movements. I was also advised not to fly in an airplane because the air pressure changes might pull on my retina.
OK, It’s An Adventure
At home, I tried to draw my husband a picture of my creature (I’m not much of an artist) and was determined to view the whole experience as an adventure and good writing material.
I read about vitamins and foods recommended for eye health and watched with surprise as I actually did become more acclimated to “my spider” over the next few days.
Here’s what you should know about floaters:
- Floaters are fairly common and often go unnoticed, but if you see flashes of light or sudden obstructive floaters, you should contact your eye doctor immediately.
- In most cases, a floater will not involve a retinal detachment, but your optometrist may want to keep an eye on you for several weeks and schedule a follow-up visit.
- After you have seen your eye doctor, it’s time to relax. In the first few days, a large floater can be very unsettling. Take time to rest in a darkened room. This will calm both your eyes and your anxiety.
- Give yourself time to adjust to your situation. Eye floaters typically diminish within 3 months says WebMD. That may sound like a long time, but the good news is that your body and mind will adjust quickly. I made significant adjustments in just a few days.
- Allow yourself to be curious about your floater, and then forget about it. For the first few days, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I was both fascinated and weirded out. It’s frightening to have something as vital as your vision taken from your control. It feels like an invasion. But remarkably, your mind will soon adjust and you won’t notice it as often. A few days more, and you will get bored with it and your normal concerns will resurface.
- It will disappear at times (almost). I was afraid to drive at first, but it really wasn’t a problem. My floater was like a bug on my windshield: I looked right through it to see where I was going. My mind easily ignored it, just like it does any smear or imperfection on glass that you need to see through.
- OK, bright light is pretty bad. I have to admit that my spider is still pretty annoying when I go for a walk in my favorite park. I want to see the unblemished beauty of hills and trees, not my floater hopping around on its translucent web. Yes, the floater and the bits of gel attached to it are keenly visible in bright light. But by my second lap, I didn’t see the thing anymore because I was too busy greeting passers-by and enjoying the sun.
- You will learn little tricks to help you see better. Trouble reading? Dim your computer screen or use a narrow tablet or smartphone to read. The less left-to-right movement your eye has to make on each line of text, the less the floater will move back and forth and the less you will see it as you read.
- Appreciate the times when you can see quite well. At night, for instance, your vision will seem pretty normal. And when your eyes aren’t forced to glance around a lot, you will see better. For example, I am pleasantly surprised that when I watch TV or sit and talk with a friend that I don’t notice the floater much at all. This is because I’m engrossed in what I’m doing and my eye isn’t forced to move around much.
- Try to see it as an adventure and marvel at your body’s ability to adjust. Soon you will be making jokes about your little creature and wondering what the fuss was about.
- Eat plenty of foods that nourish your eyes, such as leafy green vegetables, carrots, blueberries, red bell peppers, and eggs.
- Consider eye-supportive supplements such as Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc, and Omega -3 fatty acids. Also, mixed carotenoid supplements are recommended by naturopathic doctors for eye health. This beta carotene supplement contains a natural mix of beneficial carotenoids.
- Lastly, accept your situation while knowing that it will most likely improve in a few months. Acceptance helps you live more fully, while hope of improvement encourages you to make positive changes and take good care of yourself.