My partner and I have been together for over three years. During that time we have had our ups and downs, but nothing compares to the challenges we have faced over the last year. The earliest mention of floaters from my partner, that I remember, was early in our relationship. She asked in passing if I knew anything about them. I didn’t, but the mother of a friend of mine is an optometrist.
I decided to ask if there was anything that could be done about them. The answer was typical: nothing to be done, they should disappear in 6 months. It was a simple answer, my partner was satisfied and we didn’t talk more about them. Fast forwarding a couple years, my partner began complaining of irritated eyes, the kind you would have if you were rubbing lemon juice into them several times a day. The first ophthalmologist she visited proposed the reason as being rooted in her use of contact lenses.
At the time, the diagnosis was the beginning of GPC (Giant Papillary Conjunctivitis), meaning my partner had already used up her allowance/tolerance for contact lenses before she had reached 30. This was devastating news. For her, the use of contact lenses was not only about being able to see clearly, but about feeling good with her appearance. Despite the shock of such a serious diagnosis, she decided to get a second opinion, which lead us to another ophthalmologist in town. This diagnosis couldn’t have been more different. The notion of GPC was categorically dismissed by the second ophthalmologist, and later a third doctor also dismissed this initial diagnosis. The treatments for the ‘dry eye’ syndrome included steroids and other very aggressive drops. None of this worked, however, and the problem continued. Some months later, having completed a move across country, the issue with the dry eye syndrome was as bad as ever. However, the talk had now moved on to the floaters that had started to bother her. We don’t remember the exact time and reason for her beginning to see them more frequently, but it had started to be enough that I, like many others, began researching online to find a solution.
I came across the now infamous Taiwanese pineapple therapy report and thought this could be a solution. No drugs, drops or ophthalmologists needed, just a daily portion of pineapple. I began administering the pineapple, taking care that we always had some of the fruit in our flat. I also treated myself with the pineapple, as I thought my own floaters could benefit from it as well. We began the 3 month treatment in earnest, remembering to always have a fresh pineapple in the kitchen. We tried to be as systematic as possible, regularly adding slices to our meals during the day and remembering to keep an eye on the situation should any change happen. Despite the problems with her eyes, we took a trip to the Far East. For some reason, possibly due to the very high humidity, the dry eye problems simply evaporated. We worried that they would return as soon as we got back to Europe.
The problems did briefly reappear, but within another week or two, this problem had apparently resolved itself fully. Now, however, the floaters seemed to become worse, over what seemed to be just a couple of months. The beach we lived close to became a no-go zone during the day, we could no longer enjoy lunches on the balcony as we had in previous years and almost every conversation included discussion and comparison of our floaters. My own had been visible to me, on and off, since my teens – yet they had never prevented me from enjoying the beach or made going out in the snow so intolerable. The conscientious consumption of pineapple gradually drifted out of our life after 3 months with no improvement. Other attempts at solving the issue took my partner to various people, including several psychologists and a hypnotherapist.
None of this worked, of course. The psychologists just referred my partner to opthalmologists, whilst the hypnotherapist specifically stated that he couldn’t make them disappear. So how does all this look, through the eyes of a non-sufferer, a person whose floaters don’t impact their quality of life? Imagine a disease, with no safe cure available and doctors can only say “get used to it…” or “it will only get worse…” As the partner of a sufferer, it is incredibly painful seeing her start the day crying and feeling the despair set in. Following a long, cold winter, most of us look forward to the lengthening days, the return of the sunshine and the approach of spring. For my partner, however, and millions of others, the brightness outside simply takes away the darkness where they can hide. This is especially heartbreaking when, as a couple, we want to take walks outside with our newborn son. There was such a day recently, where I had to take him out alone, my partner closing herself in the flat, unable to face the outside. Nothing could be a worse feeling, especially as taking him out for walks is an incredibly important part of his development and should be a beautiful part of parenthood.
The pain is also in feeling completely unable to help, feeling powerless when she says that the only thing she wants is for somebody to take the floaters from her eyes. Whilst the option of surgery exists, it comes with too high a risk of further complications for her to contemplate, so in the eyes of too much of the medical world, we are stuck with them. The worst feeling for her is that she will never have as high a standard of life as she did only a couple of years ago, before the floaters had become an issue. There really are few words that can be offered when your partner cannot enjoy the simple pleasure of looking at the world or the sight of a sunny day. As a partner, I want to be able to take the pain and sadness away, to see the smile on my partner’s face again and to be able to face a day without being asked to compare floaters. To visit a beach again, without it being a form of torture for her.
My overriding thought is how much I want our old life back, before floaters became an issue. With that in mind, I decided to write about our experiences, about my view of the treatment of floaters and how they have affected our lives. There is another component of this which is especially problematic: in the absence of information from the medical world on causes, treatments, prevention, etc, the internet is awash with unsubstantiated claims, falsehoods, exaggerations and hearsay, of which none are helpful to sufferers or their loved ones. Doctors are generally dismissive or unable to even understand how people suffer. My partner recently underwent an eye examination, for which her pupils were dilated with an Atropine solution. The change in her was dramatic. With dilated pupils, the floaters were no longer visible. She was able to enjoy a walk outside for the first time in a year, despite the snow and bright sun which is a horribly difficult combination for floater sufferers. For me it was like seeing the sun come out after a year of darkness, with an incredible amount of pleasure, relief and, of course, a bittersweet feeling that it couldn’t last. Sure as rain, the following morning my partner uttered the phrase she uses on a daily basis, “I see them…”
If you are a sufferer, then not talking about your daily struggle can take a toll. Not only that, it is a constant struggle to be listened to, believed, taken seriously by people around you, be they doctors, partners or family members. I hope that this short story can inspire you to open up to those around you, to not suffer in silence. Only through really seeing how many sufferers there really are, can we get the medical and pharmaceutical industries to finally take notice and work on a possible cure.