New Years Day 2013
Social Security Survives – This Time

Crabby Old Lady's New Health Annoyance

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


yes, they are a bit of a distraction. I've had them for years and don't worry about them much any more. The point about sudden changes is a good one, though, and I will keep it in mind. I'm glad you wrote about it. Thank you!

Ah yes, floaters. I find that I learn to ignore them -- and then periodically have another outbreak. Good to know the sign of something more serious is the flashes ...

So very sorry. I have whole portions of my vision vanish when nerves get pinched. Holes too. It's surprising what one can learn to ignore. I haven't had floaters yet....keep us posted tho.

I've had floaters for a long time also; they are not very noticeable most of the time. The flash of lights is the most serious here; isn't that sometimes a sign of corneal detachment? Anyway, you are wise to keep going to the doctor. I suddenly developed double vision in one eye--cataracts--hopefully the surgery this month.

Wishing you the best with this condition.

I've had a detached vitreous layer for years now. I can ignore the floaters most of the time. I read more slowly now, I believe, which is at least partly due to this condition.

I've always wondered why it's called vitreous, which refers to glass, when the substance is described as "jelly-like".

BTW, did you see that the great compromise didn't forget seniors. According to HuffPo: "The legislation also would kill the part of Obama's 2010 Affordable
Care Act designed to let millions of elderly and disabled people get
help at home rather than be placed in institutional care, which tends
to be more expensive."

Please don't take this lightly, and do go to the doctor regularly. My mother lost vision in one eye because she ignored it, so when I had the flashes and huge floaters, I immediately went to the doctor. I've had two retinal tears lasered, and will see the retina specialist every six months for the rest of your life.

If it's not one thing its another. I have the continuous and annoying condition of tinnitus. Not that I would want to trade it for floaters but I have had to learn to live with this constant high pitched ringing in my ears for some time now and seldom seem to notice it anymore, even when it so quiet around the house.

You are so right about new ailments happening every year. I've had floaters for several years. Most of the time I don't notice them. What is annoying is the continuing demise of overall health that I too for granted for too many years.

And here I was ignoring my floaters and then I read your piece, and every single one of the floaters wanted to see it too.

Like Larry, I have tinnitus. When it first appeared I thought I would go mad. It's amazing what you can get used to. I am usually not aware of it until I try to go to sleep and then it seems to get louder. But I can always ignore it and accept the fact that it's become a part of my life.

I have had floaters suddenly appear for as long as I can remember. They always go away in a very short time and I just ignore them. I don't think they are always due to aging, but I have never asked about them.

So sorry to hear about the floaters...totally sucks. But your account of it made me laugh--esp. since, lately, I'm noticing more and more little things here and there (at an approaching 52.) Aside from the recently diagnosed asthma--asthma? who knew?--it's little things like finding 6 inch heels annoying, some extra belly fat, and a strong desire to start altering my clothes so they fit better. I, too, say "it could be worse" when I think about my asthma, although I'm getting tired of medication that has "weight gain" as a side effect. I wonder when that ends?

Hello Larry...
Maybe Crabby's slightly overwrought annoyance at her new floaters is that now she has strings and spots IN ADDITION to the long-present tinnitus.

I too have had floaters for decades, then started getting the flashing too. The flashing was more serious. I've had the laser treatment a couple times in both eyes now--don't enjoy it, but to save my sight, totally worth it.

One thing I've noticed with the floaters is that while they say they never go away, that's not quite true. I always have a few floating around, but there have been several times when a nice big one would appear, then gradually disappear. I'm not sure what's going on, but I'm grateful they don't all stay, or stay as large as they are to begin with.

I have a good friend that named her largest floater. She calls it Running Man and when he gets too much company she has the doctor check it out.

Oh no! No bending? Whatever will Ollie do?

I keep telling folks my bad back is because of all the bending I do taking care of my six cats. Cleaning and refilling litter boxes, refreshing water and dry food bowls and just bending over to pet or pick them up.

Hopefully you can put Ollie's food and water up on a counter. Not sure what you can do with his litter box?

As Bette Davis remarked, " Old age ain't no place for sissies."

Be well.

Been there; done that. You never really get used to the dang things. I had hoped that my cataract surgery would help but it didn't but knowing that one isn't going blind makes them easier to ignore.

Christine (Possumlady)...
Crabby has switched from bending to squatting. Easier on the back and good for leg muscles.

I'm with Joyce and Jean. Two retinal tears lasered shut (one in each eye), and biannual checkups at the retinologist forever. Works for me! Had no idea I had a problem (detached retina for reasons you described on the floaters) until a routine visit to the ophthalmologist revealed the situation, and within thirty minutes, his partner, a retinologist, lasered it. Evidently, this was an emergency. My surgeon told me this would almost surely occur in the other eye within a couple of years. And he was right. Ronni, it's great you are discussing this condition today. We need to know what can happen, does happen, and what to do about most ailments, warning signs, etc.

I thought I had a fiber from a blanket in my eye and when I couldn't get it out, went to a retinologist, thinking he could remove it. He said it was blood in my eye and made me come back each month for 6 months and to take an aspirin every day during that time. Now I can hardly see the "fiber of blood," but I do have other floaters. Sometimes they are annoying, but most of the time I can ignore them.

Why didn't anyone give us a manual (like they give you for a car)so we'd know what is serious and what we should just accept? I see my doctor every three months, but she never asks about anything like this...

Another thing to watch. Sometimes when it is tricky getting out of bed I wish my 15 year self had known what a minor thing a zit was. Oh well, I wouldn't have believed it anyway ;-)

Well, that's a little bummer. Sorry. How annoying! PLUS, we don't want anything taking you away from your blog, selfishly speaking. :)

I WISH, when I was younger, I had spent more time with old people. Then I probably would've heard about many of these things and they would've become old hat. Expected, practically. But like many young people, I suppose, I pretty much avoided old people. It was my loss, for sure.

AND, it brings to mind another reason I LOVE Skyping with my 86-yr mother every Saturday! I am SO much like her in so many ways that I WANT to hear her every ache and pain. That's for selfish reasons, again. Geesh, I'm really selfish!! Shame on me!

Been there, done that. The same thing happened to me last July (posted about it). I thought I had a hair hanging in my face, or fuzz caught on my glasses or lashes. Nope, it was a big, ugly, annoying-as-hell floater. Doctor saw me the same day when I called him. Extra concern since I was post-cataract-and-glaucoma-surgery. Nope, just a floater. I hardly notice it now. Don't know if I've gotten used to it, it has faded a bit, or both. It does get better, although you may have to resist swatting at it for a while!

Well. So there's SOME advantage to being far sighted.

I love Crabby Old Lady. I am very sorry she is having floaters and finds herself under observation and unable to bend.
Squatting is good---if your knees will tolerate it.

Have had tinnitus for quite some time now. I had cataract surgery in my 40's. In the past couple of years I also had what looked like streaks of blood dripping down a glass was retinal detachment, which did not respond to laser surgery but required old-fashioned surgical correction...don't EVER look at web videos of eye surgery before you have that surgery! Still have the floaters in the other eye, but the surgical eye had the fluid removed and replaced with water and a bubble. If you think it is strange to have floaters, imagine looking over the edge of a bubble while waiting for the retina to heal.
If it's not one thing, it's ten others. And I am not yet 60.

I have maddening tinnitus and hearing loss I like to imagine that ginko helps with the whining and buzzing.
And floaters: being very nearsighted I've had them for years. One reason I love my Kindle is that floaters don't show up against the Kindle text's grey background as they would on a pure white background.
Well, we soldier on. Happy New Year, Ronni!

Welcome to the club, Crabby. When the life expectancy was 30-40 years, folks probably were not much bothered by the things that annoy us!

As a bird watcher, for the past few decades I've noticed flocks of floater birds. I'm still seeing floaters that I know I've been watching for several years, at least!
I wonder if, in addition to having more floaters, we near-sighted people notice them more because they are more nearly in focus for us?
The tinnitus is enough to drive some of us to drink - almost! My radio plays all night (BBC) to minimize my notice of the tinnitus.

At 62, I'm glad I didn't know about my future (current numerous) ailments, and I never tell young people what's going to happen to them when they are my age! They will find out for themselves all too soon.

Definitely a bummer. So sorry. Though the tinnitus sounds equally bothersome, if not more so. Glad squatting is okay. Best wishes and MUCH sympathy.

My first floaters appeared at the ripe old age of 36. I noticed them on a ski trip, while sitting on the chair lift; The contrast between the brilliant white snow and the floaters was stark. I was really worried but after going to the eye doc, I was assured that they were normal. Seems like they came on early but stabalized in amount, so no big deal.

Here's another one. I broke a big upper tooth below the gum eating out at one of our fave Restos in Montreal. New owners didn't bother washing the salad. Tooth hurt like heck, dentist worked on it for one and a half hours. Saved it. Now I eat on one side like a pirate. Afraid to bite down on repaired tooth. Only good thing I lost 15 pounds by not eating crunchy things like nuts. But I was small before tooth break. I took the dentist bill back to the resto and told them the story. The owner paid me the $228 and said I hope you come back to eat here. In my head I said I'd rather eat a warthog raw.

Yeah, floaters and cataracts! Isn't it FUN? I've had flashes for 10 years give or take a few, but apparently they aren't serious so far. My eye exams haven't shown anything amiss except the cataract, which I plan to have removed in the next few months. Still and all, we're in better shape than many, I suppose.

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