Waco, TX

Waco's Retina Specialists Can Help with Macular Hole

Melinda Crow

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Photo by Vanessa Bumbeers on Unsplash

I lost almost half my vision last week. Here's how that's working out

It finally sank in that I couldn't see out of one eye on day two. Day one was total denial. My eyes were just tired. Maybe it's some kind of weird headache event. It's not that blurry. It will be better tomorrow.

But on the second morning, I stood in front of the bathroom mirror and covered my left eye with the palm of my hand. My reflection glared back at me, almost as if asking what the heck was I so worried about yesterday.

Then I tentatively moved my right hand over my dominant, and now confirmed healthy, right eye. I gasped. It was like some gruesome, twisted dream. I could see the outline of my head, framed by hair. I could sort of make out a nose and mouth, but when I focused my attention on my left eye, there was nothing there. Just blurry skin tone where my eye, its lashes, and furrowed grey brow are supposed to be.

Why do these things always happen on Friday?

Still, there was denial. I had told hubs the night before that there was something weird going on with my left eye. I didn't tell him a zombie missing its eyeball showed up in the mirror Friday morning.

I quietly requested an ophthalmology referral from my primary care provider. I was going blind but still felt the need to play by the damn insurance rules. Oddly though, taking that one step in what I thought was the right direction had a calming effect. I put it out of my mind and returned to my work.

A couple of hours later, with a pounding headache and aching eyes, I paused to stretch out on the couch with my eyes closed. When I open them again, I noticed the humorously appropriate AARP magazine lying on the end table. I picked it up and flipped to the story about George Clooney.

As I started to read, my sneaky right hand slid upward over my right eye. Not only did George's face disappear, but there were also no readable words on the page. What the heck? I was just typing at the computer a few minutes ago and everything was fine.

I rushed back to my desk and covered the good eye. The words twisted and crawled and squirmed, refusing to be read.

Do I go to the ER?

I rounded hubs up and told him the eye thing had not resolved and that he needed to learn a couple of things on the computer in case my good eye suddenly goes bad too. That rattled his cage a bit. Step two was to call the ophthalmologist's office in Hillsboro.

No, they had not received a referral yet, and no it did not sound like a detached retina, so an ER visit wasn't necessary-- a fact that was confirmed by the doctor when I finally saw him on Monday. A detached or torn retina is an emergency that requires almost immediate surgery to save your vision. The symptoms of that are flashes of light and or color in one eye, and curtain-like darkness over all or part of your vision. Imagine a partition blocking your vision on one side or the lower half of one eye.

People I know who've had a detached retina knew immediately something was wrong-- even when it occurred in their non-dominate eye. That, plus the fact that I still have a ring of peripheral vision all the way around the left eye, were the clues that my retina was intact.

Because there's no "partition" separating good from bad in my left eye, my dominant right eye is simply taking over, ignoring what the left can't see.

The preliminary diagnosis

It was a long weekend of waiting and wondering. I read everything I could find looking for my exact symptoms. The thing that matched exactly was the wet version of macular degeneration. Also known as age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, usually a slow, progressive loss of sight in both eyes. In its advanced stages, it can involve blood leaking into the macula, becoming what it termed "wet" AMD, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

In rare cases, the wet version happens suddenly and sometimes in only one eye. Both of my maternal grandparents had AMD, and it has a genetic link, so I was terrified. There are treatments available to slow the progression of both dry and wet AMD, but nothing that repairs damage already done.

After a bit more wrangling with the insurance aspect of this mess, I found myself waiting patiently in the ophthalmologist's chair, allowing my eyes to dilate so the son of my usual eye doctor could have a peek inside. The sweet technologist who checked my vision before she instilled the stinging dilating drops had confirmed what I already knew-- my left eye had 20/200 vision.

That means that in order to see something the average person could see 200 feet away, I'd have to be 20 feet from it. For reference, I could see the giant E at the top of the chart and the slightly smaller E on the second line, but could not clearly distinguish the two smaller letters next to that E. Vision of 20/200 would be considered legally blind if it were my "better" eye, according to the Social Security Administration.

After an extensive examination using other-worldly bright lights, the young doctor took a deep breath and began to tell me that the edges of the retina were intact, the optic nerve was in good shape, the pressure was fine so no glaucoma, and I had the earliest of early cataracts. But.

There was a hole in the macula. He reached for the little plastic model to show me the macula. It's part of the retina, kind of the most important part. It is highly sensitive and is where our fine-focused central vision takes place. He explained that as we age, the gel inside our eye becomes a bit more liquid-y and pulls away from the retina just a bit. Normally, nothing much happens from that, except that we may get a few extra "floaters" we all see drifting across our field of vision.

But when the fibers within the gel fail to let go of the retina, you get a detachment or tear. When that happens within the macula, you have a hole. It is not macular degeneration or caused by that disease, thank heaven.

Next steps and an appointment in Waco

The doctor answered all my questions patiently, assured me it was not an emergency (of course not, the damage is done), and told me he would refer me to a retina specialist for surgery. He said the specialist can sometimes use injections to help, but the main remedy is surgery. A referral was quickly made and approved by insurance for the Texas Retina Associates location in Waco, and I now have an appointment with a top-notch specialist later in the month. I've had an emotional week. I have daily headaches because I refuse to quit working. I figure my right eye had better get used to carrying the workload for quite some time because the surgery and recovery look extensive from what I can tell.

Denial still worms its way into my thoughts. When I least expect it, that right hand raises and covers my good eye, as if the two are in cahoots. Just checking to make sure that bum of a left eye isn't simply slacking off.

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Waco, TX
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