Aaron Maxwell: 16 years with Eye Floaters

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My name is Aaron Maxwell. I am currently 36 years old and developed vitreous opacities when I was 20. I grew up in West Virginia in the United States. I graduated college from a small college in the state then attended graduate school at West Virginia University. I currently am an assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University. I work with digital mapping technologies and spend a lot of time working in front of a computer writing, creating course content, analyzing data, or coding. Outside of work, I enjoy reading, writing, biking, photography, and travel.

 

I first noticed my floaters after a period of chronic tension headaches while I was in college. My floaters are characteristic of those commonly observed in younger sufferers. I see many cell-like and filament style floaters. I am most bothered by a large, dark opacity in my left eye and a network of filaments in my right eye. My condition has worsened as I have aged; however, it hasn’t gotten substantially worse since the initial onset, for which I am very grateful. I have had several examinations, including one by a retinal specialist, and none of the physicians that I have visited were able to visualize the disturbances, so they are likely small and near my retina in the back portion of the vitreous. This appears to be common in younger people, making us poor candidates for current laser-based treatments.

 

I do not have any of the identified risk factors often cited for developing floaters at a young age. I am not myopic (I have 20-20 vision and do not wear contacts or glasses) and have not experienced any physical trauma. I have two half-brothers, a twin sister, and a younger brother, none of which suffer from the condition.

 

I have found some means to cope. I find sunglasses to be a necessity while outdoors. Although I can still see the opacities, they are less noticeable. While working on my computer, I dim my computer monitors and use software and web browser dark modes. In my home and office, I fill walls with pictures and paint using dark colors. I am fortunate to have an office to myself, so I tend to use lamp light as opposed to the overhead florescent lights, and I keep the window blinds drawn.

 

Despite the adaptions that I have made, this condition has had a profound impact on my life. Prior to developing this condition, I was very active outdoors. Now, I tend to spend more time indoors and never leave the house without sunglasses. I avoid certain situations that are excessively bright, such as going to a beach. The condition impacts my ability to concentrate at work and while spending time with my friends and family. Situations I find especially difficult include attending meetings in bright conference rooms, driving, and reading in certain lighting conditions. In short, the condition has a profound impact on my quality of life, mental wellbeing, and ability to do day-to-day tasks at home and at work.

 

I am hopeful that the medical community will take this condition more seriously and work toward developing effective and safe treatment options for all sufferers, regardless of age or the size or position of the opacities. Although I have met some sympathetic medical professionals, I generally have been disappointed by how my condition has been managed and a failure to truly understand the negative impact that it has on my life.

 

Although I am not a medical professional, I feel that with increased awareness, research, and investment, safe and effective treatment options can be made available. I look forward to continuing to work with the VDM Project toward this goal and am grateful to the project originators and members who have taken on this important work that could have profound positive impacts for many sufferers across the globe.