Glaucoma – My Personal Battle
Anyone who has read my short story about the dreaded Keratitis that attacks the cornea of my left eye with ulcers, courtesy of Herpes, courtesy of chicken pox in childhood, would be aware that I have an eye problem that could result in blindness.
Where I thought that Keratitis, something that is incurable and I have to live with, would be my worst eyesight problem, I found out a few weeks ago that there is something even worse wrong with my sight, also incurable, that is referred to as “the silent thief of sight” – Glaucoma – in both eyes.
Last year when visiting my eye specialist during a severe attack of Keratitis, I mentioned to him that I had a problem with my eye that bothered me enough to mention it. I had noticed that I seemed to have, now and then, a section of my vision that was blocked out. As an example, I would be looking at someone’s face as that person spoke to me, and part of the face would disappear and all I could see in that space were pulsating waves of fragments, like I had looked at something bright and it stayed in my vision. I thought my hair was hanging over my eye at first, then I would take my glasses off and clean them, thinking it was something on my glasses.
The eye specialist advised that I should see him once the Keratitis had healed itself, and he would schedule me for day surgery to lift my eyelid, as he believed it was dropping down over my line of vision due to an automatic action to close off the eye from too much light (this is caused by Keratitis as the eye cannot cope with much light when it is ulcerated and, over time, it loses the ability to cope with bright light at any time). This can also come with age. As the procedure involved surgery, I decided to wait until my partner had moved to Sydney, because I would be unable to drive the car for a while, would be off work, and would need some help.
Things finally fell into place, and I made an appointment to schedule the surgery. The eye specialist carried out a few different tests, including a vision test to ascertain if my glasses were still at the right prescription. When he covered up my right eye I could only see the last two lines of the eye chart, the rest was blacked out. He immediately did a pressure test and found the pressure was 24 in one eye, and 26 in the other. The acceptable pressure is 15 or below! It seems inconceivable to me that after the many visits I’ve had to the eye specialist in the last few years, that this hadn’t been picked up before. All I can assume is the problem began in the last year.
The eye specialist explained a bit about Glaucoma, after he dropped the bombshell on me that I had it in both eyes, with evidence of nerve damage in both, and none of what I heard made me smile. It seemed highly possible that I would, or could, go blind in the future. There is no cure, and the only treatment offered to me at this point, is drops that I have to use for the rest of my life, daily.
I had a field vision test and when the machine was working on my left eye I sat there wondering when the process was going to begin. I thought the machine had blown up or the specialist had forgotten to turn it on. As I sat there waiting, I began to see some dim lights appearing around the lower section of the screen, nothing for approximately ¾ of the screen above, which was in darkness. At the conclusion of the test I saw the results and I could see very clearly (‘scuse the pun) that there was a lot of damage to my left eye and minimal to the right, at this point in time.
It was explained to me that the vision I had lost would never return, there was no cure, and the only hope was that the lowering of the pressure in my eyes would slow down the progression of the disease, or if I’m really lucky, stop it where it is. So, where I always assumed Keratitis would one day cast its evil shadow across my sight, Glaucoma had taken over the number one position as my enemy. There is little damage to the cornea from Keratitis so far, and for that I’m grateful, but the recurring attacks over 20 plus years have helped deteriorate my eyesight.
Here I sit today writing this, new glasses on that don’t seem any better than the previous ones. I had to have the prescription strengthened, and for the first time, my long vision needed prescription as well. The shadow over my vision is there constantly now. Perhaps it always was in the last year or so, but I was seeing around it because I knew that I would be having it fixed soon, or I chose to try and ignore it. When I close my left eye now, part of the vision is fogged out in my right eye, so the damage to that eye is starting to show itself as well.
I visited the eye specialist again last week and the pressure was down to 16 in both eyes. This is acceptable but could help me if it lowers still further. I was again told there is no guarantee, little is known about Glaucoma or how to treat it.
As a writer, losing my eyesight is a daunting thought. It’s bad enough on its own; the thought of going blind, but to never see what I write again really upsets me. I intend to remain positive in my thinking though, and tell myself daily that the deterioration has stopped and I will be fine.
My advice to everyone, regardless of whether you wear glasses or not, is to go and have a test for Glaucoma at your optometrist every couple of years. If there is Glaucoma in your family, then make it a definite priority, or if you have used drugs for other diseases that contain steroids, then don’t hesitate to make an appointment now. There is no cure, but there is treatment that can help. Depending on the type of Glaucoma you have, the degree of damage, there are various forms of treatment, including laser.
There is a lot of information on Glaucoma on the Internet and it’s well worth the read if you have any concerns that you could be at risk. I waited too long; please don’t make the same mistake.
©Vena McGrath 2005
Today I had another field vision test done and pressure test. The reading is now 14 in both eyes. There has been no further significant damage but my right eye is now doing all the work, hence my problems with my eyesight. I have reading glasses that are like coke bottle bottoms and I can only read with them, they are too strong for the computer. As my work involves both reading and computer work, the difficulties are driving me nuts. My reading glasses tend to make me feel strange, and they affect my tummy and my head.
The damage to my left eye is major and there is little vision left. The damage to my right eye is in the upper half, with major damage to the inner quarter of the upper half. My specialist has told me that I am lucky to have the lower half untouched as it gives me wider vision, not tunnel vision that goes with Glaucoma.
Prognosis? If things stay as they are I will be very lucky. My brain is having to get used to only one eye working so I have problems re distance and judgement. I have no idea how high steps are for instance and uneven surfaces, to me, are even. I look on my desk knowing something I want is there, but it's not. I look back and I see it. There is no cure, there is no reversal of the damage but there is hope that it will remain as is. If not, then I face the very real prospect of blindness. I am almost blind in one eye now, but many people cope with only having one eye working, and I can and will do the same.
Makes you wonder why but then there's no point in wondering, just accepting is about all one can do.