…Well, if you’re blessed with reasonably healthy peepers in good working order, dear Reader, the answer is – fortunately for you – a resounding ‘No!’. During my ongoing RD journey, I have on many occasions attempted to describe to people the often weird and frequently frustrating way it’s affected my view of the world but it’s incredibly difficult to explain and, in all fairness, probably equally difficult for the good-sighted person to comprehend. However, with the help of an extremely patient photographer who was happy to listen to my explanations and engage in extensive jiggery-pokery with photo-editing software, I now have some visual examples which go some way to describing what it’s like looking at the world through my eyes.
Picture one: retinal detachment
This shows what my vision was like when I had my first detachment, back in April 2014. It started with a couple of tiny black floaters which came and went, and a small cloud of very pale floaters up in the top right corner of my vision which I could only see if I looked up to the bright sky. Next, I experienced a kind of visual ‘pulling’ at the left side of my eye. Within hours, a solid black curtain began to spread slowly across my vision until I could only see a small amount at the far right-hand side. I now know that the much-dreaded ‘curtain’ must be treated as a medical emergency, as surgery is required as soon as possible in order to have more chance of saving vision.
Picture two: looking through silicone oil
This gives some idea of what it’s like looking through the silicone oil in my eye at the current time. Everything is very blurred, to the extent that I can’t make out any detail in people’s faces or read text unless it’s GIANT TEXT (obviously a lot bigger than that – I’m talking the size you get on the side of a bus, for example). Colours appear far less saturated, and straight lines are no longer straight but have little wiggles in them (this was something which unfortunately couldn’t be demonstrated in the picture).
Picture three: looking up, through silicone oil
This demonstrates what it’s like to look up through the silicone oil, which I try not to do because lots of little black floaters start to come down and freak me out. I see the line of the oil, which hovers and moves around depending on the angle I’m looking at and the position my head is in. If I lie on my side and look up, I can see it at the top-right of my eye. When we look at something, the image projected onto the retina is inverted and reversed; this is sent to the brain via the optic nerve and the brain then ‘flips’ everything around. In effect, it’s like looking in a mirror whilst standing on your head. So, because of this, and because the oil floats in the eye (a bit like a bubble in a spirit level), I think that what I’m seeing here is actually the bottom of the oil bubble. I’m not quite sure why I see the black floaters or exactly what they are – bits of debris or tiny bits of oil which have escaped from the main bubble, perhaps? If anyone knows, please enlighten me!
Picture four: looking through silicone oil when outside on a cold day
I have no idea why this happens, but when it’s very cold and I’m outside, the vision in my RD eye gradually becomes cloudy until it’s as if I’m looking through thick fog. Once I go back inside, the foggy vision gradually clears as I start to warm up. I once asked one of my surgeons about why this happens, and he seemed rather intrigued but unfortunately wasn’t able to explain it. My sister observed that cooking oil becomes cloudy due to changes in temperature, to which he looked highly amused and pointed out that he’d injected silicone oil into my eye, not cooking oil! 😮
Picture five: night vision through silicone oil
People often think that because I find bright light extremely difficult to deal with I must be absolutely fine in the dark, but unfortunately this isn’t the case. Everything is still very blurry, and because I can’t see any detail using my right eye, the darkness just exacerbates this so that I can’t see very much at all. Difficulties with depth perception are also worse in the dark.
Of course, some of the weird things I see just can’t be described adequately using still images. One example of this is what my eye buddies have described as ‘the lava lamp effect’. This is when a small bright white orb of light suddenly appears and scoots around part of the perimiter of my eye before disappearing again. Sometimes, it breaks up into several smaller orbs of light which fling themselves in different directions before disappearing. This can happen at any time and occurs multiple times a day, as well as during the night. It can be extremely distracting, although I have kind of got used to it now. I’ve never been given a definitive explanation as to what causes it but have been told that it’s probably traction on the retina. Another odd effect is a shaft of light which seems to beam down into my eye when I catch the light from a certain angle. It mainly seems to be overhead lights which are the culprit. As well as all this, there’s the constant flickering which occurs whenever I move from a bright room into a darker one and is the source of much paranoia at times. Finally, the floaters in my left eye have remained rather appropriately elusive, despite several attempts to capture an impression of them in a photo, so this might be a project for another day…
Note: Huge thanks to the patient photographer, for producing these images for me, in a radical departure from the far more aesthetically pleasing subject matter of landscapes and flower photography. 🙂