“At first, I was experiencing floaters in my left eye,” shares 67-year-old Evelyn Alegre. “It bothered me because they were there even when I closed my eye. So my local doctor advised me to see an eye specialist, and that was how I found out I had a macular hole.”
“Floaters are spots in your vision,” explains Asian Eye Institute retina and vitreous disease specialist Dr. Patricia Quilendrino. “They are like black or clear strings or cobwebs that float across your vision. While it is normal to have them, seeing a lot of it with some flashes of light can be a sign of a retinal problem.”
A macular hole occurs when there is a small tear in the macula. The macula is the part of the retina that is responsible for central vision.
Quilendrino explains: “The eye is filled with a gel-like substance to maintain its round shape. As we age, this gel-like substance shrinks and pulls away from the retina. This can tear the retina and create a macular hole.”
However, other eye conditions like high nearsightedness, and having a history of an eye injury or retinal detachment can put patients at risk for macular holes.
Macular holes usually develop slowly. There are patients that experience symptoms which others do not. Possible symptoms include having blurred vision and difficulty in reading and driving. Sometimes, straight lines appear wavy. In Alegre’s case, she didn’t feel any pain or experience any difficulty in her vision.
“It was a good thing that we were able to detect Ms. Alegre’s eye condition early,” says Quilendrino. “A macular hole can worsen over time and lead to permanent vision loss. This is why we strongly encourage patients, especially women and those who are over 60, to get annual comprehensive eye exams. During their checkup, we will put dilating drops their eyes. This will allow us to have a better view of the back part of their eye, including their retina.
“If they have a macular hole, we can recommend them to undergo a surgery called vitrectomy. This prevents pulling on the retina by removing the gellike substance and replacing it with a bubble that contains a mixture of air and gas. There are cases when the hole closes and heals by itself, but it has to be closely monitored by their retina specialist.”
As for Alegre, she urges patients to give special attention to their eyes.
“I didn’t feel anything, and I didn’t experience any difficulty in my vision. I could have gone blind had I not gotten that checkup and macular surgery. With the help of Dr. Quilendrino, I was able to see again,” Alegre says. (Story/Photos by: Charizze Henson)