Something in my eye

On December 4, I went to my optometrist’s office for an eye exam. I needed contact lenses to wear on stage during performances of Cinderella, and to get those I had to have an up-to-date prescription. Therefore, an eye exam. I got the prescription, but Dr. Samuels told me that one of the routine tests had produced an unexpected result. One of my eyes had a greater internal fluid pressure than the other. “I’d like you to come back in a month to repeat the test, so we can figure out whether this is a temporary aberration or a measurement error,” he said. “If it’s real, it could be an indication that you’re at risk for glaucoma.” I scheduled a follow-up appointment.
That appointment took place last Friday, and the result of the second test was the same; the difference in pressure is real. And another test showed a slight, barely measurable decrease in my field of vision — exactly what you would expect in the very earliest stage of glaucoma. We don’t know for sure whether I have the disease, but I certainly fit the classic pattern. The next step is to go to a glaucoma specialist for an optic nerve scan. Dr. Samuels gave me a referral to a specialist in Raleigh, and I have an appointment to see her on February 4.
I didn’t actually know what glaucoma was, so I did some Web research with Marie’s help. Basically, it’s a degenerative disease (usually, but not always, associated with excessive pressure inside the eye). If not treated, the disease damages the optic nerve, causing the visual field to narrow gradually over time. This leads to “tunnel vision” and eventually to complete blindness. There is no cure; damage caused by glaucoma is permanent. However, glaucoma can be treated with medication (or, in some cases, surgery) that prevents the damage from happening in the first place. If the disease is detected early, the prognosis is excellent.
As it turns out, there is a history of glaucoma in my father’s family, and it illustrates the importance of detection and treatment. My grandmother, Ruth Morris Berry, had glaucoma — and so did her father, Willie Morris. Willie’s was never treated, and he eventually became blind as a result. Grandma Ruth’s glaucoma was diagnosed and successfully treated with medication. Both of them lived into their nineties, but my grandmother didn’t go blind.
If I do have glaucoma, it has been detected very early. I know this because December 2003 was not the first time I went to Dr. Samuels to get contact lenses for Cinderella. I did exactly the same thing in December 2002, and my intraocular pressure was normal. So the glaucoma, if such it is, developed sometime during 2003.
I’ll know for sure when I visit Dr. Talluto on February 4. If she determines that I have glaucoma, the most likely result is that I’ll have to use eyedrops every day for the rest of my life. It’s possible that I’ll have to have laser surgery. But I won’t lose my sight — thanks to Cinderella, and to medical science that’s almost a century more advanced than when Willie Morris was my age.

Comments are closed.