I didn’t see it coming. I’ve lived with myopia for a long time now. It was first detected when I was ten and I was caught reading my neighbour’s notes in a maths test. I wasn’t cheating, I just couldn’t see the blackboard clearly. There followed a predictable parade of eyeglasses. I didn’t always make good choices. Remember the 1980s?
I switched to contact lenses in my early 20s. More recently added reading glasses for close work and got bifocals for when I am not wearing contacts. So far, so normal. My script has been stable for years at -7.5 and -8.5 for my left and right eyes respectively. Nevertheless, I have regular eye examinations and appreciate that this is a free service with Australian Medicare.
My latest visit to the optometrist progressed as usual. I floundered my way through the eye chart; stared into a bright light; and passed the glaucoma puffer/pressure test in the normal range. This time, she also took a photo of my retinas. Cool, I find eye photos fascinating. Remember Introspection from the Twelve by Twelve windows theme challenge?
Then my consultation took a different turn. I thought my retina photos looked rather pretty. Orange orbs with with a big white dot in the middle. My optometrist had other ideas. She thought my optic nerve cupping looked suspicious and referred me to a specialist who confirmed the diagnosis- glaucoma. Although I am not conscious of it, my upper peripheral vision is significantly impaired in one eye and there is damage in an upper quadrant of the other eye.
In case you’re a little hazy on the details (I know I was), glaucoma is a condition where the pressure within the eye causes damage to the optic nerve. Once the damage is done, it is irreversible. Treatment may be effective in preventing further damage but there is no cure.
Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness throughout the world. It is mainly a disease of older people (80+) as intraocular pressure rises progressively with age but glaucoma can strike at any age even people like me on the cusp of 50 with no symptoms or family history.
The main principle of treating glaucoma is to lower the intraocular pressure to a level where it will not cause further damage to the optic nerve. I have started a lifelong regime of daily eye drops – a regime that I willingly embrace in the hope that my vision will not degenerate into a perpetual vignette filter or worse. Apparently my career as a trumpet and tuba player is over before it has even begun (high resistance wind instruments increase intraocular pressure) and if I ever take up yoga, I will need to avoid positions where the head is below the waist. Otherwise, for now at least, I can sew, read, do computer work, drive, exercise and make art as usual.
Glaucoma. The thief of vision. I didn’t see it coming. Neither may you. Get your eyes examined regularly.