After having my last check-up appointment at Moorfields cancelled at pretty much the last minute (https://rdramblings.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/q-whats-more-stressful-than-an-impending-eye-appointment/), I was more of a nervous wreck than usual by the time the hours, days, and finally three weeks had slowly dragged by until I eventually reached the rescheduled date. After getting a few headaches I’d convinced myself that my pressure must be high, I was already terrified of the inevitable discussion of when surgery to remove the oil should take place, and to top things off I’d noticed a blind spot in my good eye (perhaps I should describe it as ‘better’ eye rather than ‘good’ eye) which had been freaking me out for a good few weeks.
I only noticed this during the course of my usual visual field checks at home. One day I realised that when I sat at my table and stared ahead with my bad eye shut, I was unable to see one of the pictures on the wall across the other side of the room with my good eye. Once I’d calmed down slightly from my initial panic of thinking, “****, I need to get to Moorfields first thing tomorrow morning”, I remembered that various people on the RD Facebook support group site had discussed suddenly noticing blind spots and it had turned out to be a result of laser surgery and they just hadn’t noticed them before. So I told myself it could just be from the cryotherapy I’d had in that eye to mend the two tears back in April 2014. Or, I told myself, it might be the natural blind spot which everyone has. Or, I told myself, it might be a hole or a tear in the retina. After telling myself all this and freaking out all over again as a result of the last possibility, I’d then try to calm my breathing down and stare at the blind spot once more, willing it to be a figment of my imagination. It wasn’t. I obsessively measured it each day (I’m not admitting to how many times a day) by using various visual markers so that I would be able to tell immediately if it got any worse. I also started ‘looking’ for it when I was out and about. This was not really a sensible thing to do. Once, during a walk down the road, I managed to make an entire red telephone box disappear into the blind spot, which caused me to feel rather sick. However, as the blind spot didn’t seem to be growing when measured against my set markers at home, and I wasn’t getting any other new symptoms, I gritted my teeth and attempted to plough on through my daily life as normal whilst desperately trying to quell the evil little voice inside my head that said “It’s going to be a tear, it could detach at any minute… you’ll end up at that appointment and they’ll whisk you straight into surgery”.
We arrived at Moorfields in plenty of time – so much so that we even managed to nip into the cafe to get a cuppa to take down with us for the long wait in the clinic. “What are you doing?”, asked my sister in aghast tones when I sat down with my cup of tea. “I don’t want to go down to the clinic!”, I said, clutching my stomach which had been churning uncomfortably for most of the morning. However, down we went, reluctantly. We settled down for the long wait, briefly pausing in our important discussions of setting the world to rights to glare disapprovingly at one patient who obviously wasn’t accustomed to the NHS in general and eye clinics in particular as he proceeded to harangue the receptionist and demand to know when he would be seen. We observed with disgust as he turned his back on her whilst she was still explaining that she would check where he was in the queue, and plonked himself back down inserting headphones into his ears as he did so. Unfortunately, I’d already disposed of my banana skin, otherwise I’d have been sorely tempted to toss it under his heel and watch him go flying down the shiny corridor floor.
We didn’t have to wait too much longer before I was called in by one of my consultant’s team. Upon asking if I’d experienced any problems since my last check-up, I told him about the blind spot and he said that he ‘hoped’ it was my natural blind spot, which everyone has. Following the usual drill with each eye in turn (see https://rdramblings.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/a-grand-day-out-at-moorfields-eye-hospital/ if you’re interested to know what this is), he sat back and used magical words such as ‘okay’ and ‘stable’, as well as assuring me that the blind spot was indeed simply the natural one. I quickly suppressed my urge to leap up and do a little dance as he then started talking about the dreaded subject of surgery to remove the oil. However, even this ended happily as in answer to questions, he said there was no clinical need to remove it immediately and it would be fine to wait for another few months. Of course, I’d still like a miracle, but while I’m waiting for this to be arranged, I’m more than happy with the outcome of today’s appointment.
In the meantime, if anyone’s wondering, let me just explain the sciencey bit about the blind spot, which all of us have. Light enters our eye through the pupil and hits the retina at the back. The optic nerve then carries this information to the brain. However, the optic nerve is kind of ‘plugged in’ to the retina itself, which means that this part of the retina is in effect redundant, thus creating a blind spot. Most of the time, the other eye will see what’s in the blind spot, but if the person is only looking through one eye, the brain just fills in the spot by taking information from the surrounding area. So, for example if a picture on a green wall falls into the blind spot, the brain will fill in the blind spot with the green colour of the wall and it will look as if the picture has just disappeared. This is what was happening in my case at home, doing my visual field checks.
To demonstrate this, have a look at the picture below. Close your right eye and look at the cross on the right. You should still be able to see the dot on the left, but don’t focus on it. Keep your eye on the cross and move your face slightly closer to the screen, and then further away again. At some point, the dot should disappear. At this stage, you have found your blind spot. Do the same with your left eye, but this time focus on the dot and move around until you see the cross disappear. The same should happen if you use a different coloured background, but your brain will fill in the colour of the background.