Monday, August 17, 2015

Cataract Journey: Interregnum

in·ter·reg·numˌin(t)ərˈreɡnəm/. noun. A period when normal government is suspended, especially between successive reigns or regimes. An interval or pause, as in, "the interregnum between the discovery of radioactivity and its detailed understanding."
After cataract surgery on my first eye, I entered a bizarre period in which that eye had excellent vision at intermediate distances (computer screen, conversation) and the other was a total blur. I’m very near-sighted (as in -15 diopters), so there was no possibility of fusing images. So the world looks blurry and sharp at the same time, and I have to use parallax (shifting my head) for any kind of depth perception. Needless to say, I do not feel safe driving. Or pouring water from a pitcher, unless I can brace the lip of the pitcher against the glass – we found this out in a somewhat spectacular fashion.

One solution might have been to wear a contact lens in the nonsurgical eye, and I had worn hard or RGP (rigid gas permeable) lenses for over 50 years. But a couple of years ago my eyes, which had become drier over the decades, flatly refused to put up with contact lenses. I tried all sorts of lubricating drops, but was never able to wear my lenses more than a few (2-4) hours a day. If I did any work on the computer, that time dropped to an hour (people blink less often while staring at a computer monitor, hence increase in scratchy, red eyes). Finally, earlier this year, I lost one of my lenses. This has happened maybe half a dozen times over  the years. I looked everywhere (if you wear contacts or are close to someone who does, you know the crawling-around-on-the-floor routine) and eventually concluded that after I had cleaned them the night before, the lens had stuck to my finger instead of sliding off into the soaking solution. Since then, I had washed my hands and tidied up the counter area. So, no hope. I’d been wrestling with spectacles ever since.

My next idea, which friends have tried, was to pop a lens out of my spectacles, so that my nonsurgical eye sees through the remaining lens. Great idea, right? And it worked – so long as I covered one eye, didn’t matter which. When I tried to fuse the equally-clear images, however, my brain went nuts. It turned out the images were of sufficiently different sizes, too disparate for my brain to turn them into one. This might not have been the case with a person less near-sighted than I am. So, rather than putting a patch over one eye – toss a coin as to which one – I’ve been wandering around in this visually bizarre state.

As it turns out, I’ve been able to use my night-time reading glasses. These corrected my vision for quite close, as in curling up in bed with a good book. The lens on the side of my surgical eye distorts its vision so much that my brain shifts over to the eye that can see clearly through the glasses. For quite a few years, I used “monovision” with my spectacles: one eye was corrected for intermediate distances, and the other for far. I still needed over the counter reading glasses for small print or sustained reading, but the rest of the time, my brain just flipped from one side to the other. So this current, temporary solution works…not really well, but adequately. Likewise, I am now seated at my desk, viewing my computer screen primarily through my surgical eye. I’m delighted at how crisp the letters are (particularly when I close the other eye and get rid of the blurry overlay).

Surgery for the second eye is coming up in a few days now, and I’m looking forward very much to having two clear-sighted eyes. I have a few pairs of reading glasses left over from my contact lens days, but otherwise I will be setting my spectacles aside. It will take several months to see if I’ll need additional touch-up LASIK surgery for optimal vision. I’m so used to far distances being slightly blurry, I’m expecting a great improvement anyway. Because I opted for the “Advanced Lifestyle Lenses,” the touch-up is included in the fee. The other option is that Medicare will pay for one pair of spectacles and I could choose near or far. This will be a topic of discussion with my surgeon and optometrist once everything has stabilized.

I am so glad to be living now and not a century ago, and to have all these choices! No more jokes about “my old eyes”!!

1 comment:

  1. This was a really insightful blog post into the interregnum after your cataract surgery. I'm glad popping a lens out of your spectacles worked in the interim, and you found a way to function for now. I wish you all the best for your second operation, and I'm sure your vision will be running at 100% in no time!