Damned statistics

People who know me well will be aware that I’m not a fan of numbers. In fact, I detest the darn things. Maths was my worst subject at school (aside from the much-dreaded sport); I never learnt my times tables; and although I can easily rattle off huge chunks of ‘Hamlet’, I struggle to remember my own ‘phone number. And don’t even get me started on a task in my previous job which involved working out standard deviations from cohort means in order to calculate student prizes.

However, I acknowledge that numbers are important – especially in these days of rising Covid cases at a time when we’re all getting dragged back to the office by our hair, kicking and screaming (did I mention that I’m not looking forward to going back?). In fact, it amazes me that although the daily infection, hospitalisation, and death figures in the UK for the past few weeks have been very high (and considerably higher than this time last year), most people seem to be completely ignoring these statistics. Yes, yes, I know that a lot of people want to get back to normal and I’m frequently hearing the declaration: ‘I’m just fed up with it all now’, as if that’s a perfectly valid reason for throwing sensible precautions to the wind. But, who isn’t fed up with it now, I ask you? Even those of us who have found working from home a blessed relief are pretty fed up with every other aspect of the pandemic. There’s much talk of ‘living with Covid’; but, in my opinion, living with Covid shouldn’t equate to pretending it’s all gone away. Because it hasn’t. For those readers who are in any doubt about this, I refer you to those daily infection, hospitalisation, and death figures. You can find them here: https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/.

‘Ooooh, but we have the vaccines now!’, people exclaim, as if that makes everything okay and I’m being completely unreasonable in expressing any sort of concern. Yes; we have the vaccines… and that’s great, don’t get me wrong. But being double jabbed doesn’t make us invincible – although clearly a lot of people seem to think it does. There are A LOT of stats out there about the effectiveness of the different vaccines, stats about transmission, symptoms, long covid, hospitalisation, and the proportion of the population which is still unvaccinated, etc etc, and it can all get a bit overwhelming and confusing at times. So much so, in fact, that I’m not going to start quoting Covid stats and attempting to explain why I find some issues confusing. Suffice it to say that it’s been scientifically proven that double jabbed people have a significantly reduced risk of infection, hospitalisation, and death; and anyone with any sense will accept that. But, there is still a risk. And that’s the bit that worries me. Let me explain my workings here…

It all hinges on retinal detachment (because naturally, why wouldn’t it?!). According to the RNIB, one in approximately 10,000 people have a retinal detachment each year, and approximately 10% of RD patients suffer re-detachments. I had three detachments in 2014 and three in 2015. According to the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, most retinal detachments happen to people between 60 and 70 years of age. I was 38 when I had my first one. The Review of Ophthalmology states that between 5% and 10% of all RD repairs fail as a result of PVR (Proliferative Vitreoretinopathy – you can read more about the horrors of PVR in my aptly-titled post, ‘The Curse of PVR‘). I developed PVR following my first RD repair, and in my case PVR is the reason that each of my surgeries essentially failed in successfully reattaching the retina and making it hold in place under its own steam (i.e. without the use of silicone oil in the eye).

My RD diagnosis notes from the hospital in Berlin states that my original diagnosis was due to lattice degeneration (which I have in both eyes). Having investigated stats on lattice degeneration, it appears to be estimated that it affects between 8-11% of the general population. I haven’t been able to find conclusive stats on the percentage of people who end up with a tear or detachment as a result of lattice degeneration, but apparently many people live with it without even knowing they have it, which suggests that the likelihood of developing problems is fairly small.

So those are the damned statistics which relate to my right eye. In relation to my left eye… the RNIB states that between 10% and 15% of people with a PVD (posterior vitreous detachment – you can read more about exactly what this is in my post: ‘PVD: an explanation‘) develop a retinal tear as a result. When I experienced PVD in my left eye last summer, I went on to develop three consecutive retinal tears during the following four months. After the PVD, I also developed an epiretinal membrane in that eye, which subsequently broke away and is now floating in my vitreous. Apparently, this is a fairly rare event, although I haven’t been able to find specific stats on how often it happens.

However, it’s pretty clear from all the above that I’ve made it into those ‘minority stats’ far more frequently than seems statistically reasonable. It all adds up to equal the fact that I appear to be a Very Unlucky Person. Or – a person outside the norm… which I guess I already knew. Hence, statistics no longer provide me with a great deal of comfort. As I commented to my sister a while back: ‘the problem is that some poor bastard is always going to be the wrong side of the comforting stats’. In the case of eye issues, that poor bastard is me. I really don’t want to find myself on the wrong side of the Covid stats as well (not least because Covid can affect the eyes). So, dear Reader, if you spot me (or anyone else for that matter) edging away from you or staring at you in horror because you’re not wearing a mask indoors, please just bear in mind the fact that we are really not all in the same boat here. Some people have very good reasons to be more nervous than others.

13 thoughts on “Damned statistics

  1. Cince

    “Stats”… I have had the same thoughts regarding my retina detachment(s!), the odds of it happening…and the covid/vaxx stats… I will admit I have thought to myself “what could be worse than what I have already been through with my eye?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ejb117 Post author

      Good point… when I’m worried about something, I often ask myself: ‘is this likely to be as bad as eye surgery?’. The answer, so far, has thankfully always been: ‘no!’. I hope you’re doing ok at the moment! 🙂


  2. floweringink

    I reblogged this and shared on Twitter. I think it’s a really important post. We are not all the same as far as risk and covid and people need to remember that. I am personally keeping the mask on in shops etc, for the foreseeable future. On another note, I have epiretinal membranes on both retinas; what’s the deal with them?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ejb117 Post author

      Thank you – I appreciate your support! I think a lot of people just don’t understand how badly some people are affected by the anxiety of it all. I’m doing the same with masks – I really think they should still be compulsory indoors.
      I’ve been thinking of writing a post to explain epiretinal membranes, so will get my information in order and do that! My understanding is that they’re a type of scar tissue which forms over the macula, often following retinal surgery or laser to fix tears. Sometimes they don’t cause any problems but sometimes they can cause distortion and affect vision. Are yours affecting your vision?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. floweringink

        It’s hard to tell; apparently the cataracts, the epiretinal membranes and the RP can all cause certain changes in vision that I am currently experiencing. I learn so much about retina health from you; I connect with what you write so much more than other stuff I read online.

        Masks are still mandatory indoors here in Ireland, but it won’t last forever. I am just going to keep wearing mine and stay away from those who don’t . I actually had my first experience yesterday in a shop where 2 men weren’t wearing masks and one was in line behind me not social distancing. I got out of there fast.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ejb117 Post author

        From what I understand, I think epiretinal membrane is likely to cause distortion such as wavy vision – lines not being straight, etc. but I do need to read up more. Cataracts are more likely to cause distortion in colour vision and they can cause halos around lights. You’ll know more than me about RP but I thought that was more sort of gradual tunnel vision? I’m really pleased that my writing helps you – comments like that make me feel that all my nightmares in terms of eye problems aren’t entirely in vain. So thank you!

        It sounds as if things are generally much more sensible in Ireland! I round say mask-wearing in supermarkets here in Englang is pretty much only 50%, and a lot of people are ignoring social distancing.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wendy

    Reblogged this on Picnic with Ants and commented:
    This is a wonderful post about why it’s so important to still be diligent during this time of COVID-19.
    ‘the problem is that some poor bastard is always going to be the wrong side of the comforting stats’, personally I don’t want to be that person, and I don’t want anyone I love to be either.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Happier statistics | RD Ramblings

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