Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Eyes Have It

My eyes, dilated
Rather than explain a million times what's is happening with my eyes, I thought I'd blog about it.  This will be a bit different from my usual blog post.


I've always had eye problems.  Other than a slight color blindness that sometimes makes me see pink as off-white or gray, I do not remember a time when I wasn't almost functionally blind.  On family car journeys (there were no other kind) my parents or siblings would say, "Hey, look at that!" and I'd look but never see it (usually wildlife beside the road), earning the disdain of my parents and siblings.  Finally, in first grade they decided I needed glasses.  And they were thick glasses.  And the older I got, the thicker they got.

Now delicate optical instruments and a 6-year-old boy are not a good combination.  I was always breaking glasses or losing glasses, earning the ire of my parents.

When I was fifteen or sixteen I got contacts.  These were amazing!  One: no more glasses and two: I could see better.  But because of my astigmatism, I always had to have hard contacts (that may have changed in the past 20 years).  I wore contacts for nearly 20 years, stopping in 1994 (the last time I wore them was when I went to see Independence Day, which was a waste of both money and discomfort).  Because of developing environmental allergies, the contacts would within a few hours of being put in get a nice coating on them of the same material eye boogers are made of.  This made them uncomfortable to wear and my vision blurry.

So I went back to glasses, for about twelve years.


I had a cancer scare in 2005.  Two doctors told me I had Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  I didn't.  But I told my wife that if I lived through this, I would get LASIK.  Since I didn't have cancer, I lived through it.  So I got LASIK, in 2006.  Well, they screwed up and put the wrong prescription in my right eye so I had to have it redone.  But when it was done it was amazing.  I could see 20:20 without glasses.  I bought a nice pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers (in Las Vegas) and enjoyed my new vision.  I had zero problems that people report.  The only thing was at night point sources of light (like car headlights) had a sort of halo around them.  But it was still better than glasses where you had to deal with glare that was worse.  Also, I sometimes had to wear reading glasses depending on how big the print was.  Before, I'd just take off my prescription glasses and hold the document close to my face.  But that was no big deal.  I loved it.  For about five years.


A year or a year and a half ago I noticed my vision was getting worse.  At first I thought diabetes (I'm rather overweight).  But that wasn't it.  My local eye doctor was perplexed.  He said the shape of my corneas (the clear part of the front of the eye) were changing and he didn't know why.  My mother recommended I go to an eye doctor in Spokane (about an hour and a half drive away).  So I did last July.  They were shocked at the shape of my corneas.  They wanted to get my pre-LASIK records before making a decision.  So I signed a slip to allow them to get those records from the LASIK folks.

And then 6 or so months passed and my eyes got progressively worse.  So bad I probably shouldn't have been driving (I was) especially at night (I was).

The clinic in Spokane kept using an auto-caller to say I needed to make an appointment and for some reason this just annoyed me so I kept hanging up on it.  Finally, deciding the only way to stop the calls (to my cell phone, no less), was to make an appointment.  So I went back about three weeks ago.  They gave me a prescription for distance-only glasses and now I'm wearing them and I can see while driving, watching TV, using the computer, people watching, etc.  And they are not nearly as thick as my old glasses were.  In fact, they seem to be about as thin as glasses can be.  So I don't mind them . . . much.

Kerataconus and Corneal Collagen Cross-linking

I was informed at this appointment that I have Kerataconus.  This is a "common disease" suffered by about 1 in 750 Americans (according to the literature I was given).  The only choice use to be have your vision get progressively worse, needing stronger and stronger glasses, until you eventually need a cornea transplant.  But in 1999 someone developed Corneal Collagen Cross-linking (CXL).  (CXL sounds like a Cadillac car model.)  It's been done in Europe and Canada for over a decade.  And there is a clinic in Spokane preforming these procedures.

Yesterday I went to that clinic.  The good news is I'm a good candidate for the CXL procedure.  The bad news is, it's not FDA approved, yet, so insurance won't cover the cost (but it beats going blind).  In fact, my procedure will be part of the data gathering they are doing in attempting to get it approved.  It is already approved in Europe and Canada.  They put vitamin B in your eyes and then hit it with an UV light which causes the collagen fibers in the cornea to link together so that they will stop moving and your cornea stops changing shape.  (Cross-linking is a common procedure in the polymer business to make plastics stronger by binding the long-chain molecules together chemically.)  The procedure takes about two hours because the vitamin B has to soak into your cornea.  I'm doing it next Thursday.  They say I will have difficulty seeing for about a day.  And I have to wear a contact on my eyes for 4 - 5 days.  I assume all day and night because they take it out.

The doctors at the clinic were perplexed.  They said LASIK can cause Kerataconus but usually it shows up a year after LASIK, not six years as in my case.  They thought perhaps I was predisposed to getting Kerataconus when I was older and the LASIK just quickened it.

The bad news is, it could change my vision (for the better) and I just spent a crap-load of money on two-pair of very nice glasses, clear and sunglasses.  The good news is, this will make it so my vision doesn't change anymore.

Now you know everything I know.

No comments:

Post a Comment