Vitreous What Now? Airbag Deployment and Delayed Eye Trauma

Almost six months ago, I did not have a clue. After the car accident and dealing with broken fingers, cracked ribs, rotator cuff injury, PTSD, etc., I thought I had dealt with all the physical injuries and could focus on recovery and putting that ghastly event to rest. About a month ago, I noticed something was off with my vision. I was writing it off to seasonal allergies, insufficient sleep, and the continued dry eye issues – until I could no longer ignore it and made an appointment with my ophthalmologist. After a long series of tests later, I was told that I had a delayed vitreous prolapse indicative of focal zonular damage, which probably is causing my kaleidoscope vision, the dimness, and shadow in one eye, possibly due to blunt ocular trauma incurred at the time of the accident.

I needed clarification. My ophthalmologist added that though there was no apparent emergent sign of retinal detachment, it must be further checked to gain a clear picture – no pun intended. I cannot hide that I felt confused and distressed because I would have thought such an injury would have manifested itself at the time and not months later. It turns out I learned something new. It is common for such things to show up over time when the initial injury – though not evident – does not heal or when microscopic tears grow. A combination of old age (yeah, well) and related common eye issues and trauma makes for a troubled course. Repairing the damage may not be worth the complications that may arise and are frequent with such surgical options. So, a wait and… see approach.

Since it had been time for my annual eye exam anyway, I was told my vision had improved over the last visit, and new lenses were in order – some good news. However, it remains a mystery how things can develop so diametrically opposite. Why am I writing about this? The simple truth is that I had no idea that a deploying lateral airbag could have such effects so much later. Yes, that day, I felt like the airbag slapped me in the face, but its function was to prevent my head from going through glass or hitting a hard surface. I suffered a minor concussion, and I thought I had been lucky. I had no major headache or visible bruising on my face, and my eyesight was all right for a long time. Until it was not – I did not tie the two together up until the checkup.

Though unexpected, at this point, I am certainly not letting this new development get the best of me. Yes, it is annoying and bewildering, yet I have come to terms with this new reality, and my brain is doing an outstanding job at trying to rewire the visual information it processes. The initial presentation has improved with a few adjustments and has stabilized. Time and further assessment may provide alternative solutions that avoid most complications. I feel like a substandard version of the Bionic Woman, a TV series I watched as a teenager. Lindsay Wagner’s Jamie Sommers shows my age, and I chuckle. That said, this is an invitation to reflection. Never assume that damage may not present itself later because there may not be immediate signs of an eye injury after airbag deployment.

Vitreous prolapse and hemorrhage statistically occur in 10-15% of road traffic accidents. Surgery to repair damage to the lens, cornea, or non-emergent retinal detachment is performed a third of the time in those cases. The intensity of the traumas from those injuries affects post-treatment visual acuity equally. It is worth mentioning that using Trivex or polycarbonate lenses instead of standard plastic or glass lenses may prevent worse eye injuries or traumas by a factor of fifty. Trivex lenses are more expensive but worth the investment – eyesight must be preserved and cared for at any cost. In my case, the lenses were not the issue as they did not break or shatter. I have learned to live with the shadow, the kaleidoscope moments, and the dimness every day, adjusted and pivoted. Take care of yourselves!