I had a standard eye exam a few months ago, just to check things out and make sure my prescription for glasses was still correct. After the letter-reading, blinding light and weird things touching my eyes, my optometrist said she wanted me to see a “corneal specialist,” a/k/a, ophthalmologist. She told me she saw something in my eye and looked to her like a tiny bit of orange rind.
I have a family history of corneal problems, you see. Both my brother and mother had a corneal disease called Fuchs (“fooks”) Dystrophy. My mother had cataracts. My brother has both Fuchs as well as glaucoma. In this case, the optometrist suspected Fuchs, but couldn’t be sure since it wasn’t her specialty. I went and made an appointment with my HMO-approved cornea doctor for later that month, in the morning.
I’m not a wimp when it comes to medical procedures. I have no problem when people draw blood or conduct colonoscopies. I’m not even afraid of surgery, either knocked out or conscious and numbed. I can handle trips to the dentist. However, I’ve always been afraid of anything that comes near and/or touches my eyes. That makes eye exams particularly daunting. No matter how much I prepare (deep breathing, trying to focus my mind on something else, even drugs to dampen anxiety), I always end up blinking or pulling back whenever the machine that touches my eye comes into view. I’ve had eye doctors literally hold my head still and move that machine at the speed of light to use it on me.
Now I was in for even more poking around and the thought did not set well with me. In fact, I was more upset about that than about the possibility that I might have Fuchs. If the trip to an optometrist freaked me out, what was a corneal specialist going to do? I actually skipped my first appointment out of plain and simple fear. I am not easily frightened, but I was then.
It took me a while to reschedule, but I finally put my foot down with myself and made another appointment, for yesterday morning. Overall, it wasn’t that bad: more bright lights than anything else. But, I did get weird around the instrument that touches the eye, even with the drops that numb your eye. I needed something to numb me. The medical assistant finally ended up using a hand-held device, which I could tolerate.
And the final result? I do have early-stage Fuchs, in both eyes. I have the beginnings of cataracts as well. Oddly, the realization does not distress me. I saw my mother living as she always did with Fuchs in her later years so I was used to it. And, my brother has it. And, my eyes are fine at this stage so nothing is really imminent. Now I know why I have trouble seeing at night to drive. Not the Fuchs, by the way, but the cataracts.
So I’m taking eye drops, which I’m really bad at for the above-mentioned reasons. I think I’ve emptied half a bottle of the saline solution just trying to get the damn liquid to go into my eyes and not down my cheeks. More drastic procedures may be in my distant future (my mom had a corneal transplant) but I think I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.