Another year, another ailment. And nobody ever tells you to expect them.
So there was Crabby Old Lady last Thursday afternoon sitting in the place she can most frequently be found - in front of the computer. She doesn't recall what she was doing when, with no warning, there were a bunch of black strings and spots in front of one eye.
She blinked. She blinked some more. The strings and spots remained swirling here and there as Crabby glanced from side to side.
Although it was odd that they were not irritating her eye, Crabby still thought it must be dirt or an eyelash. Upon removing the contact lens from her left eye, that proved wrong: the strings and spots floated around in her near vision with or without the lens.
The doctor's assistant gave Crabby Old Lady an appointment three hours hence.
This being the internet age and all, Crabby spent a good deal of that wait time at medical websites. Did you catch that word “floated” in a paragraph above?
It is likely that a lot of you who read this blog know all about “floaters” because they are a common affliction of old people and are more prevalent in people who, like Crabby, are nearsighted although they can also be caused by certain eye diseases and injuries.
The Mayo Clinic tells us:
”Most eye floaters are caused by age-related changes that occur as the jelly-like substance (vitreous) inside your eyes becomes more liquid. When this happens, microscopic fibers within the vitreous tend to clump together and can cast tiny shadows on your retina, which you may see as eye floaters.”
The little dark gray things the arrows are pointing at in this image are what floaters look like inside the eye:
Floaters are elusive little buggers which is what makes them, to Crabby, so annoying. They come into view most often against white or light backgrounds like a book page or computer screen or blue sky and when you try to look at them carefully – hard to resist – they float away as this scene from the TV cartoon, Family Guy demonstrates:
Both the Mayo Clinic and Crabby's eye doctor are reassuring about floaters:
“Floaters are usually harmless and are seen by many of us at one time or another.”
Only rarely are they serious. Crabby's doctor confirmed what the Mayo Clinic says about that:
”If you notice a sudden increase in the number of eye floaters, contact an eye specialist immediately — especially if you also see flashes of light or lose your peripheral vision. These can be symptoms of an emergency that requires prompt attention.”
After reading that, Crabby Old Lady had walked into the doctor's office with trepidation. There had been flashes of light when she bent over to add some food to Ollie the cat's bowl just before she left home in the late afternoon.
The doctor explained that the light flashes can be signs of vitreous or retinal detachment that sometimes accompany floaters which can be a serious vision problem.
After an examination that included photographs of the inside of her eyes and a physical exam of the same areas, Crabby's doctor believes her vitreous detachment is minor and, additionally, hers are ordinary, run-of-the-mill floaters. But he wants to check on them weekly for the coming month and during that time, Crabby should not use aspirin for anything at all and not bend over.
As he put it, I want you to be vertical or horizontal on your back but nothing in between, and you should call if there are increased numbers of floaters, more light flashes or if a shadow fades across your visual field.
There is no treatment for floaters. The doctor and everything Crabby has read tell her that people learn to ignore them. Oh yeah? Maybe not. As Crabby writes this on the computer, their random movement is an constant if small distraction.
But aside from this and a couple of other minor afflictions of age, Crabby Old Lady is healthy and you know what? In the overall scheme of things, she will take floaters over the variety of serious ailments that plague many old people. What are a few spots and strings in front of her eye compared to cancer, stroke, diabetes, Parkinson's, heart disease, arthritis, etc.
It's just that there are so many annoying little things about old age and Crabby wishes someone prepared us for them. These are not the fun kind of surprises Crabby likes.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mickey Rogers: Better Than a Sleeping Pill