Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eye See You

In the mid-1980's, I had a glitch in my right eye. Woke up one morning, there was a grayed-out patch that looked kinda like the Nike Swoosh, just off-center to the right. Not good. 

Hied myself on down to my optometrist, who said, "Huh. Never saw anything like that before!"

Which is not what you want to hear when somebody is looking into your gone-funky eye.

Toodled on over to the ophthalmologist ASAP. Exams, tests, including one that involved having a fluorescent dye injected into an arm, and then close-up photos of the eyeball as the dye hit it, a fluorescein angiogram. This made my urine glow in the dark for a couple of days, which was cool.

The swoosh faded, leaving some small pigmented spots that made the Amsler Grid wavy in a couple places, and gave venetian blinds and power lines little humps if I caught them at the right angle. 

After much ado and poking and prodding, there came a tongue-twisting diagnosis of convoluted medical jargon that contained in it the word "idiopathic."

This is the key word in a diagnosis, which, if you don't know what that means, I'll translate for you: "We don't know what caused it or where it came from." I got "idiopathic," along with the advice: Keep–pardon the pun–an eye on it, and come back if it changes.

For twenty-eight years, it was stable. Now and again I'd do the grid test, which you can do at home. (Download a copy of the Amsler Grid and print it out. Hold it at reading range, close one eye, then repeat the process with the other eye. The lines should all look straight. If they look curvy or have dark splotches? Probably good to get yourself on over to your eye doctor and have it checked. Because this can happen in one eye and not the other, the good eye will often compensate for the bad one, and you might not even notice the problem. See the helpful images below:)

Normal Amsler Grid, below.

Not-so-normal Amsler Grid, below.

Recently, things got a little worse. Still have 20/20 with glasses straight on, but the blind spot is a little bigger off to the right, so I went to have it checked. 

Eye getting worse is worrisome. 

Doc dilated things, looked around. There it was, but a little bigger. Huh.

Didn't look like AMD-that's Aged-related Macular Degeneration, which is the leading cause of vision-loss in people older than sixty. (At the risk of TMI, there are two forms of this, "dry," and "wet," the causes of which are ... ah, idiopathic. The dry is by far the most common, 90%, and aside from specialized vitamins that seem to help some people, there is no treatment. The wet form is worse, it's more aggressive, but can be treated with coagulants and lasers and all. One can turn into the other, and both affect central vision. 

Neither get better, but sometimes they don't get worse.

Typically, people with AMD lose central (macular) vision but keep peripheral, so they don't go completely blind. They don't know for sure what causes these, but there are some things that seem to help lower your odds of getting it: Don't smoke. Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eat a lot of leafy green vegetables. Be born male, and from a family where nobody ever got this.)

So my ophthalmologist wants me to go get some more tests, see another eye guy. 

To what end? I asked.

Well, to track it. So we can see if it gets worse. Get a new baseline, all like that.

Well, I repeated back, if it gets worse, I figure I'll know it, right? Probably nobody will need to tell me. And if you don't know what causes it and there's no treatment, and probably I'll get that same idiopathic diagnosis, um ... what is the point?

You have me there, he allowed. Still, maybe tracking this will add knowledge to our base and someday help figure out what's causing it and maybe help somebody down the line.

Point taken. 

So in the near future, I'll probably get glow-in-the-dark urine and all like that. 

Never a dull moment ...


Mike Byers said...

GITD urine! Whoa, that's really neat! Guess you might drink a lot of water and then go around the neighborhood...

Kris said...

According to New Scientist, which has run a couple of articles about it, in the past six months, researchers are starting to make some progress on Macular Degeneration- though, I'm not sure to what degree. I wish you the best of luck with your issue. I have a few "dead pixels", that are the bane of my existence on beautiful, sunny days; I imagine that a wavy patch gets rather old as well. Having said that, let's hope it stays just a wavy patch.

Anonymous said...

If they want you to add to their knowledge base without any real chance of getting a viable cure or treatment for you, they should examine you for free.

Steve Perry said...

There's a thought - free. Of course, they might find something useful to me, always a chance ...

Rion Wilhelm said...

My son says that the side effects probably make writing in the snow more interesting. I'm sure it would probably spook your neighbors that take nighttime walks...

Dojo Rat said...

Sounds like a great excuse for medical marijuana!

bourgon said...

Have you asked Daniel Moran about it? I know he has macular degeneration, hopefully he might be able to help or might have some resources/recommendations.. This is probably redundant, but still worth mentioning.