“No eyes that have seen beauty ever lose their sight. “~ Jean Toomer
Are you over forty? Do you have annual eye exams? If not, I hope that reading my story will convince you that they should be a regular part of your health care regimen. I have tried to keep this post as short as possible, may have more to say later.
About four and a half years ago I woke up on a Sunday morning and realized that the vision was very blurred in my left eye. It did not get any better as time went on, and was a very long day. I had not seen an opthamologist since moving to Washington state, so knew I would have to do some scrambling the following morning to find someone to look at my eyes for me. I resorted to an appointment with the optometrist who was included in my larger clinic’s plan as he was able to work me in that Monday afternoon.
I had lasik surgery done about four years earlier, and what I feared was that somehow the surgery had gone wrong after all that time. It had been such a treat to spend the following years without the glasses and/or contacts I had worn since first grade. My lasik surgery had been done by one of the best specialists in Colorado: my vision was too important to do any bargain hunting. I knew that if it had somehow failed, my corneal tissue was so thin that there would be no chance for a do-over. What I didn’t know was what else the blurring might mean.
The optometrist examined both eyes, and in just a few minutes told me that he needed to refer me to a retinal specialist. It wasn’t an immediate emergency but that I needed to be seen the following day if at all possible. He did not offer much more explanation, just had his assistant call the specialist and secure an appointment. He might have mentioned macular degeneration but I was somewhat in a state of shock, wondering if things were even worse than I had thought. I didn’t really know anything about macular degeneration at that point, but I was soon to learn more than I ever wanted to know.
The following day was a long one much of it a blur; examinations, injections, photos of my eyes with an absolutely incredible camera, and in between, waiting nervously. When the retinal specialist finally had everything he needed, he sat down to explain that I had wet macular degeneration; likely more related to my extreme near sightedness than to my age. He offered me the choice of seeing another retinal specialist if I felt I needed a second opinion, but prompt treatment was critical to stop the blood vessels that were bleeding into my macula. This was in order to save as much of my central vision as possible. There would be no cure, no reversal, the objective was to attempt to stop the MD in its tracks. The treatment he proposed to do that day was PDT, photodynamic therapy which I later learned was the cutting edge therapy at that time. http://www.visudyne.com I felt comfortable with him, and so calls were made to the insurance company to clear the treatment.
Many appointments and various costly treatments later, my vision was finally stabilized. He utilized PDT, Macugen, later Avastin; whatever was getting the best results among retinal specialists across the country. What actually prompted this post is a six month follow up appointment this coming Monday. It will mark two years of stable vision in my left eye, and I have no problems to date with my right eye. I would love to hear about some great new treatment that might restore my central vision, but I don’t think the research is there yet. Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in people over the age of sixty so research does have a high priority as more and more boomers reach that age.
For now anyway, life has really normalized. I don’t have any central vision in my left eye but my brain has compensated quite well, with only a few exceptions. I have terrible depth perception, so avoid driving at night, especially on nights when the roads are wet. I have trouble reading print on a colored background; do best with black print on white. I always wear sunglasses outdoors, even on overcast days. I do follow the dietary recommendations, inculding lots of green leafy vegetables, and other foods rich in lutein and xeathenine.
I know that my life could change in a day if the same thing happens to my right eye, but unless and until, I live life as normally as possible. For the longest time though, I spent hours staring at photos of people who are most important to me, hours studying the faces of my dogs, and trying to memorize beautiful places and things so that if I did ultimately lose my sight, I would be able to remember them. Ironically, one of my greatest fears has always been the loss of my vision, and that fear has somewhat diminished through this process.
Here are a couple of the links I have found helpful along my journey. Please don’t take vision care for granted, it’s important to have regular check ups, especially as you age.