My trip to the eye doctor (part 1)

June 26, 2015

By Matthew E. Milliken
June 26, 2015

On Thursday morning, I drove myself to my appointment at the eye doctor’s office.

Like my recent trips to the dentist, this visit was long overdue. Not only had it been a few years since my last eye examination, it had been a number of months since my most recent pair of glasses had fallen apart. (Fortunately, I had a backup pair that was in excellent condition.)

Some of the equipment in this doctor’s office seemed to be a bit more modern than what I’ve seen in other ones. The assistant (optician? technician?) started me off with a machine that did a retinal scan. One procedure, which in other places had involved a machine blowing tiny puffs of air into each eye, now was performed by a puffless device.

The people in the office did their job with a light touch. When the assistant asked me if I was allergic to any thing, such as penicillin, I said I wasn’t sensitive to anything that I knew of. Then I filled the brief silence by saying* “Except for poison ivy.”

The young gentlemen smiled. “If you’re exposed to poison ivy here, then something has gone terribly wrong,” he said.

The last procedure that the assistant performed was a pressure test. In the past, that’s involved some drops that dilate my pupils. The assistant said that this time around, there wouldn’t be any drops; instead, he’d use a small device that might make me blink.

“That’s OK,” I said. “I’ve survived blinking before.”

He chuckled. “I should hope so.”

The man held a device in front of my face. It tapped me a few times. I blinked. He moved it to the left eye. The process repeated.

As he checked the readings, I said, “It felt like being flicked in the eye by a mosquito’s leg.”

He agreed, adding that it was hard to believe that the device had poked my eyes 12 times. (Six times in each eye — it hadn’t felt like that many pokes. I did notice a faint soreness in my eyes in the evening, but it was gone by the following morning.)

The doctor came in a few minutes later. He was probably a little younger than me, and he liked to have fun. When I commented idly about how some of the technology seemed a little more cutting-edge than what I’d seen in other places, he energetically but endearingly began lecturing me about how those devices that puffed air were like boat anchors — obsolete, unhelpful pieces of technology. (Apparently, the puffers require constant calibration in order to produce accurate readings, and they don’t produce consistent data in any case because sometimes people hold their breaths in anticipation before the second eye is puffed, which can yield different blood pressure readings.)

Later, the doctor told me that due to my age and myopia, I was likely to experience a deterioration in my vision in the next few years. But this was natural, and I shouldn’t panic. “Hang on to your towel,” the doctor said. A moment later, this clicked for me as a reference to Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The doctor explained that my vision would deteriorate as a side effect of aging: As people grow older, the cells in the lenses of their eyes divide and die. Unfortunately, the doctor said, as the new cells ingest on the older expired cells, there are parts that they can’t fully process, so they become rigid. As the flexibility of the lenses decrease, so too does their ability to focus.

The doctor used a metaphor to explain this: If I were locked in the room with the assistant and he died, then I would start to eat his body. However, there would be parts, such as his bones and belt buckle, that I wouldn’t be able to digest.

However, based on my past set of spectacles (which the assistant had evaluated with a machine), my eyes had not changed much in recent years. So that was a good thing.

There were other good things. No serious anomalies showed up on the retinal scans. There were a few very small spots, which I think the doctor called bleeders; these usually heal on their own and can be caused by something as simple as sneezing hard. (“Have you been sneezing?” the doctor asked with mock seriousness. “Uh, yes, at some point over the last 40 years,” I replied with mock chagrin.)

The doctor pointed on the screen to what he called “your Cindy Crawford.” This was a dark spot, about as large as two or three bleeders combined. It’s basically an internal mole — a birthmark on the inside. I’ve had it all my life, but I’d never seen it until Thursday morning.

Another artifact, a faint squiggly line, appeared in the same eyeball. (It was the left eyeball, I think.) Based on its rather substantial length, the doctor said, this was most likely an artery that had connected the front of my eye to my optical nerve when I’d been in utero. Typically, this artery withers and is digested by the body, but not in my case: I have a souvenir from gestation, not unlike the birthmark.

But the health of my eyes were excellent, the doctor said; there was no sign of glaucoma, which may run in the family. Three cheers for that!

To be continued


Standard disclaimer: Since I wasn’t taking notes or making recordings at the time of these events, all dialogue and thought bubbles are guaranteed to be only kind of, sort of accurate. Fortunately for you, the valued reader, this free blog comes with a money-back guarantee! 

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