Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Damn My Eyes

After a grade school vision test, I was hugely disappointed to discover my eyesight was fine. My disappointment was not about a desire to see better. Somehow I got the idea glasses would improve my appearance.

My parents and I never got the memo about regular eye exams. My next trip to the eye doctor was about six years ago. Increasing difficulty in reading small print drove me to make the appointment.

Following the exam the eye doctor told me to pick up some reading glasses from the drugstore. I did. Problem solved.

Last summer I went back to the eye doctor. My vision had deteriorated to the point that even with glasses, I couldn't read small print. The harder I tried the less I could see.

After several tests, the eye doctor said I needed to see a retina specialist ASAP. The clincher was my inability to see a dot on a piece of graph paper. Actually, unless and until I tried to focus on it, I could see the dot. I later learned this is a classic symptom of my disease.

The retina specialist performed several tests, including a number of scans. He told me I had macular degeneration in both eyes with a severe case in my left eye. Follow the link for a more detailed description but it is essentially a swelling of the retina caused by plaque deposits.

My vision, per se, is fine. My right eye is 20/15. The left bounces around from 20/15 to 20/30. Glasses don't help.

My peripheral vision is fine--the swelling interferes with my ability to focus. Without treatment I will eventually lose my ability to see details, such as words in a book and faces. There is no cure.

The treatment is an injection in the eye of Avastin, a colo-rectal cancer drug which shrinks the swelling. They numb my eyeball first. Still, getting a shot in the eyeball is only slightly less horrifying than it sounds.

I had to have the injections the first four times I saw the specialist. In February the swelling had gone down enough to skip the injection. Instead of a six-week follow-up, I didn't have to come back for two months. You'd have thought I won the lottery.

My two months was up this morning. I knew when my left eye tested 20/40 that I wasn't going to get a pass on the injection this trip. The scan turned up even more swelling than was evident on the first scan. Damn.

No part of the procedure hurts--it's just uncomfortable. The worst part is the wire clip they use to hold my eye open. Think Clockwork Orange. From prep to finish the entire procedure lasts about two minutes.

While waiting in a dark room for my eyes to dilate I've met a lot of senior citizens who share my condition. Most have had macular degeneration for decades. Unlike me, all are legally blind in at least one eye because there was no treatment when they were diagnosed.

Horrible is a relative term. Compared with losing my vision, the eyeball injections every six weeks aren't so bad. At least when I look in the mirror I still see the face of...

The Crotchety Old Man

1 comment:

DealiriousMama said...

OMG! That's awful for you. I never knew that was a treatment. Will the injections continue to work as long as you get them? Wishing for months and months before your next one!

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