The somewhat frightening question in the headline was one I confronted Monday night. Driving home from work I began seeing flashes of light, something akin to lightening bolts, out of the corner of my left eye.
I was going to work out that night, but I headed for a hospital emergency room instead.
As luck would have it, there was no ophthalmologist in the emergency room and all Evanston Hospital (in my Chicago suburb) could do was call one ophthalmologist and also call my ophthalmologist and ask them for opinions on the phone. This after telling me the flashes could mean my retina was detaching, which in turn could cause me to go blind in my left eye if surgery wasn’t performed quickly to reattach it.
I wanted an answer that night about whether I needed surgery, but I could not get one. Plus I had to try to sleep that night without moving my head for fear of causing further damage to my retina.
The next morning, I was at my ophthalmologist’s office at 8 a.m. even though she was not scheduled to arrive until that afternoon. I said I would see the first available doctor and did, a bit later.
The good news is that my retina is fine, for now. What’s happening to me happens to some people as we age. In simple terms, we have a gel-like substance in our eyes that liquefies as we get older. Normally it’s a smooth process but sometimes the gel tears away from the retina rather than just melting, something like pieces of ice falling off an iceberg.
If they fall too suddenly, they can tear the retina and cause it to detach, which puts you at risk for going blind.
I now will be having my eyes looked at every four weeks or so to ensure my retina remains where it’s supposed to be. And the flashes may start in my right eye soon, too. As I understand the doctors, these never go away; they just become something I will become accustomed to and not notice as much as I do now.
If you start seeing flashes in one or both eyes, do get them examined as soon as possible, quick action could save your vision.