My Personal Experience with Glaucoma
I sat in the ophthalmologist’s office, trying desperately to breathe normally. As he sat across from me, he explained that in accordance with the test he had performed, the results were not positive. I had lost ninety percent of the sight in my left eye and I was not going to get it back.
I suppose it was the shock of this news that made me feel calm. I remember thinking that at least I had one good eye left and if I could keep my one good eye then I would be okay. I called my husband from the doctors’ office and asked him to meet me there right away. I was glad I had someone to call, this was no time to be alone.
That was almost thirteen years ago. I was fortunate enough to have worked for a major corporation so I was able to take advantage of the resources of their medical department. The medical department referred me to the ophthalmologist in whose office I sat that morning. When I underwent the vision field test on my right eye, I was able to follow the moving light on a screen very closely as it moved around a perimeter. Every time you see the light you hit this little monitor which is attached to your finger. It is computer generated and very accurately documents your sight. However, when I was tested on my left eye, it was very sad. I realized at that moment that I had absolutely no sight in my left eye.
The ophthalmologist recommended another doctor who was a Glaucoma specialist who has been my doctor throughout my illness. Even though I went on to work relying on one eye for the next ten years before I retired, I had to undergo about eight consecutive eye operations on my left eye since there was a great deal of internal eye damage. The primary purpose for the eye operations was to lower my eye pressure so that the liquid could escape normally out of the eye. The operations became an annual procedure. I also had laser surgery as an office procedure many times since the normal tendency of the scar was to close and form scar tissue. Along with that I had two operations on my right eye (my good eye) due to a severe increase in the liquid not naturally flowing in and out of my eye and of course the danger of losing my sight in this eye as well.
I have what is medically termed angle-closure glaucoma. In angle-closure glaucoma, the angle formed by the cornea and the iris closes. The iris is plastered against the trabecular meshwork, which prevents the aqueous humor from reaching the drainage channels. This can lead to a rapid increase in intraocular pressure, a serious medical condition. I did an Internet search under Glaucoma for this technical definition.
My initial introduction to glaucoma came about as a result of my mother losing her sight. My mother had suffered from diabetics for about twenty years before she completely lost her sight. We would later learn that diabetics can in fact trigger glaucoma in diabetic patients over a period of time. Research and the medical profession had not advanced to what they are today. My mother spent many years talking about seeing little black spots everywhere she looked, but no one thought anything of it. In fact before I was to be married, my mother’s glaucoma had escalated to the point where she was totally blind. My mother never did see me in my wedding dress on my wedding day, but there she was, smiling and talking with other people, some people did not even realize that she was sightless. Of course, she managed this with the help of her sister who never left her side.
I must say that for many years I heard people say that glaucoma is a silent killer, meaning that in my particular experience there was no pain associated with sight loss. It is the oddest thing in the world I must say. As I sat in the doctors’ office, I was in shock not only because I had lost my sight in one eye but that I had actually lost my sight and did not even realize it. Today, since I only rely on my one eye, I am in the habit of testing my sight by covering one eye at a time and actually testing to see if you can ‘see’ out of each eye individually. This is a quick check that doctors recommend for everyone, including children.
Personally, I must say I was determined to live a normal life. I wanted to work and retire as everybody else. As I returned to work after each operation, I continued to work harder on my job, making as many personal adjustments as I could. I did not want to be considered to be handicapped! Most people who know me personally forget that I can only see out of one eye. Besides I faced a real dilemma given my work situation. If I had lost my sight in both eyes I would have been diagnosed as legally blind and therefore entitled to full disability. However, since I could see out of one eye I could not be deemed to be fully disabled, therefore the best I could have gotten was a less demanding job possibly with a cut in pay. I did not want that.
I am now retired and continue to be under my doctor’s care. I see him every three months on average and take my obligatory eye drops every day. I would love not to have this medical condition, but I do and that is my reality.