Tag Archives: High eye pressure

Strong and stable?

I was feeling about as strong and stable as a certain indecisive woman’s preposterous policies when my sister and I set off in the grey drizzle for my appointment at Moorfields Eye Hospital on Monday morning.  My last appointment hadn’t gone as I’d hoped, and I was convinced that they’d be booking me in for my much-feared sixth lot of surgery this time.  With an eye full of oil and rising intraocular pressure, it seemed that the only way was up (baby!) in terms of the latter.*  I’d spent the previous week or so in a state of mounting anxiety, and things weren’t helped by a run of stonking headaches, increasing queasiness and belly ache as the dreaded day loomed closer.  Just in case I was in any doubt about my state of inner turmoil, my subconscious saw fit to remind me of it in the form of nightmares on the rare occasions that I managed a bit of decent shut-eye.  I dreamed of being trapped in my house as the sea roared and raged ever closer, flooding my garden in giant waves and seeping into my place of sanctuary.  I should add at this point that the sea is about a mile away from my house, so this was a most unlikely scenario.  However, it felt so real that once I’d woken and calmed my thudding heart, I peered through the bedroom curtains to check the windows for salty spray.  Drumming home the point, the following night I had a terrifying dream in which I couldn’t see properly out of my good eye.  Each time I tried to blink the floaters away and focus on something, it appeared as a blurry mess of confusion – just the same as the vision in my bad eye.

Things weren’t improved on appointment morning, when we missed the train we were aiming for and, upon arrival at Moorfields, discovered that the grumpy receptionist was on duty in the clinic.  (Well, it was a Monday morning to be fair, so she had every right to be grumpy.)  Lucy somewhat gleefully pointed out that it was All My Fault that we’d missed the first train, as I hadn’t been as punctual as her in getting myself ready.  I protested that the reason for this was that I’d been trying to force my breakfast of peanut butter on toast into my churning stomach (much to the dog’s benefit and subsequent surprised delight).  My taught nerves required me to pay an urgent visit to the facilities before we descended to the clinic, so Lucy went ahead to book me in.  The grumpy receptionist lived up to her name when she stared at Lucy in disdain and demanded, “But where is she?”.  Fortunately, I appeared shortly after this and she waved me through without further interrogation.

We settled down for the usual long wait but were taken by surprise when the nurse called me through within the space of a few minutes.  Visual acuity was as expected, and then came the pressure check, which I’d pretty much been worrying about ever since my last appointment back in January.  I held my breath.  Then I reminded myself to breathe, in case holding it affected the pressure.  I opened my eyes wide and stared straight ahead as the nurse advanced with the pressure monitor and I waited for it to flick against the surface of my eye.  As always, she took a few readings in each eye and then stood back and declared, “21 in the right and 20 in the left.”.  “Ooooh, it’s gone down again!  That’s good, isn’t it?!”, I exclaimed.  She agreed, and proceeded with the dilation drops.  I smiled through the stinging and watering as I felt myself relax ever so slightly.

We headed out to waiting area number 2 and settled in again – it’s always best to expect a long wait and this time we weren’t disappointed.  I dampened my sandpaper mouth and we ate bananas, discussed politics, and played ‘I Spy’ as my pupils dilated and my vision blurred.  Each time a doctor appeared carrying a particularly bulky file, I braced myself in expectation, as we waited… and waited… and then waited some more.  After a while I gave up on watching out for thick files and eventually I was called through by a doctor I’d never seen before.  I already knew that my consultant – ‘the Prof’ – was away that day, as we’d spotted it noted on the whiteboard as we’d entered the clinic.  This did nothing to calm my screaming nerves.  We later discovered that he was away at a conference, so I like to think that he was sharing ground-breaking research about a cure for PVR.

The doctor I saw was extremely patient, giving both eyes a thorough examination before checking my right eye over a second time.  Much to my delight, he was very receptive to questions, which we naturally took full advantage of and obtained answers to even more than the nine on my pre-prepared list.  My shoulders slackened slightly as he told me that everything looked the same: the area of detachment beyond the laser line hadn’t progressed any further, the abnormal blood vessels were the same, and the oil wasn’t causing any problems at that point.  He emphasised that I must return to A&E if anything changed, adding that I would know in my gut if I experienced anything which needed to be checked out.  He then went on to pronounce that word which is far more meaningful when coming from the lips of a retinal surgeon: ‘STABLE’.  As my eye was stable (aaaah… bliss!), he didn’t see the need to rush into further surgery and therefore asked me to return for another check in six months.  Resisting the urge to kiss him, as I suspected this would be frowned upon, I thanked him warmly instead and headed out to make my next appointment with the grumpy receptionist.

The grumpy receptionist took the full force of my delight and relief, as I gleefully told her that I didn’t have to return for six whole months and added that I felt as if I’d been given a wonderful present.  She smiled, and I observed in a most uncharacteristically chatty manner that we usually saw her in my previous clinic rather than ‘the Prof’s’ clinic.  We were treated to another smile as she explained that someone was off sick, and then she ominously remarked that she’d seen my name on the list that morning.  Considering the huge numbers of patients she must see, and knowing that in my own job I only tend to remember the names of people who are either very nice or incredibly annoying, I briefly wondered which category I fell into.  However, after further chatting as she made my next appointment, she smiled again before bidding us goodbye.  We skipped out into the London streets, where we discovered that the grey drizzle had given way to weak sunshine.

Word that I was in celebratory mood had clearly spread, for as we piled onto the tube and sat down, two men clutching saxophones (soprano and alto) climbed aboard along with another guy who turned out to be the singer as they broke into a jazzy version of ‘Hit the road, Jack’.  Ignoring the stony-faced feigned oblivion of most of our fellow passengers, Lucy and I grinned at each other and bopped along in delight, receiving a nod and thumbs-up from the singer in return.  We continued to celebrate my good news by treating ourselves to posh sarnies from M&S (good eye food ones, obviously).  I demolished my share with gusto as we journeyed back on the train; my appetite having made a welcome return.

*You may like to check this out if you’re wondering what on earth I’m talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hOMvs_1UFCk

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Stuck between a rock and a hard place

I had a check-up appointment at Moorfields on Monday, and it’s left me wanting to write in ANGRY, SHOUTY CAPITAL LETTERS AGAIN… possibly even BOLD ANGRY SHOUTY CAPITALS to emphasise my sheer frustration and desire to hurl everything within reach on the floor in a tantrum and scream at the heavens in despair, ‘I’VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS NOW!’ (see https://rdramblings.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/the-anger-issue/ if you’re wondering what I’m talking about regarding angry, shouty capitals), but after considering the matter, I reflected that italics might be more appropriate – being somewhat softer and more weary.  I can picture them as people leaning over sorrowfully, whilst softly sobbing into handkerchiefs.  However, as previously mentioned, normal sentence case is easier for people with visual impairments to read, so I shall endeavour to stick to the practical option.

The day started off pretty well – the sun was shining and we had a couple of hours to kill before trekking on the train up to London so I dragged my long-suffering sister out on a little geocaching expedition to make the most of the fine weather and take our minds off the impending appointment.  Three smiley yellow faces later, we rushed for the train and made it in just the nick of time.  Upon arrival in the clinic at Moorfields we were somewhat taken aback at how manically busy it seemed, but we managed to find seats and settled down for a long wait.

We were just starting to get bored when the nice education lady approached and asked if I’d be happy to volunteer again for the medical students.  (It’s worrying when you find yourself getting recognised by increasing numbers of staff at each visit.)  I agreed with alacrity, partly because it’s actually quite interesting listening to the medical students as they use me as a guinea-pig, and partly because I’m very aware that they have to practise on people to learn and one of them might even be treating me one day in the future.  It wasn’t so great having four doses of bright lights shone into my eye one after the other, but that’s a minor down-side.  First the tutor had a look to check what the students should be able to see, and then the students each took their turn.  The first guy seemed pretty nervous as his hand kept wobbling, but he managed the examination without too much trouble.  The girl who had a go next couldn’t make anything out and had to try twice (ah, make that five doses of bright lights), but it was worth putting up with the light just to hear her excitedly exclaim, ‘Oh yes, I see the vessels!’  ‘Okay, now track them back’, the tutor calmly directed, obviously trying to keep her focussed as she seemed in danger of leaping up and whooping in delight.  ‘There’s the optic disc!’, she declared, sounding much more confident about the whole thing by that point.  After bright light number five, there was a small discussion about what they should have been looking for and what they actually found, and I was delighted to hear my left optic disc described as ‘normal’.  That’s an adjective which isn’t generally used in relation to my eyes.  After choruses of ‘thank you!’ from them, and ‘good luck!’ from me, I stumbled back to the waiting area as the various flashes from the bright light subsided.

We waited, and waited, and checked the time, and then waited some more.  The seats slowly emptied until we had our pick of almost any chair in the waiting area.  We noticed that the grumpy receptionist had left, and some of the nurses had their coats and bags ready to go home.  I voiced the possibility that they’d left me until last because they knew how many questions I was likely to ask, but we decided that it really didn’t matter as long as the questions were all answered.  Eventually, the locum consultant came out and called me in, apologising for the delay.  He examined my right eye (the bad one), then wrote a few things down, and told me he was going to examine my left eye as well.  ‘Excellent’, I thought, feeling relieved that I wouldn’t have to ask him to do that as well as is sometimes the case.  I wasn’t feeling quite so perky about the whole thing when he took rather a long time in checking out my left eye and then asked me to lie down on a bed so that he could get a better look, along with a head-torch and what I can only describe as a metal cocktail stick type implement.  When I (somewhat foolishly) asked if everything was okay, he told me that he thought there might be a tear in the retina.  By this time, my heart was pounding, my hands were starting to shake, and I had already fast-forwarded to the operating table in my mind’s eye.  He put what felt like a shower of anaesthetic drops into my eye and explained that I’d feel some pressure and discomfort.  He angled the cocktail stick down the side of my eye and seemed to be prodding and pressing it to move the eyeball around and get a better look.  I lay there, gritting my teeth for as long as possible, thinking that it was better to let him get a proper look at what was going on than have to admit that it was actually hurting quite a lot and cause him to potentially stop looking.  After more prodding and poking, another examination back on the chair, then down on the bed, then up on the chair again, he said there didn’t seem to be a tear, but there was lattice degeneration, which would be ‘watched’.  All this time, I was trying to keep the shaking under control (it’s difficult to do as instructed and ‘stay still’ when in a state of panic and shock) whilst wailing internally, ‘Oh [insert expletive], not my good eye, not my good eye, NOT MY GOOD EYE PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAASSSSSEEEEEE!’.

After that, he proceeded to tell me that the slight detachment in my bad eye beyond the laser line has increased a bit.  I’d been suspecting this, after experiencing some flickering in a different area of my eye for a few weeks, but I’d been hoping this wasn’t the reason for it.  Next, he terrified the living daylights out of me by discussing the possibility of removing the silicone oil again, explaining that because I’m still young they would ideally like to try taking it out.  Leaving it in can cause all sorts of complications, including high pressure, glaucoma, calcification of the oil, scarring of the cornea, and apparently also a potential problem with blood vessels because the area which is currently detached is being starved of oxygen  which means that it could cause abnormal blood vessels to grow and in turn cause glaucoma.  This was the first I’d heard of that particular complication and I’m still somewhat confused by it so it requires further research.  If they take the oil out, there’s the danger that the retina will re-detach yet again and all the horror which goes along with that.  If it detaches again, he said they’ll just put the oil back in and then leave it in.  But then what about all these horrendous complications of leaving the oil in?  I started to ask more questions, but he’d already spent quite a while with me and it was very late by this point.  He ended by suggesting that I think about it and return in a month, at which point I presume a decision will have to be made.

We emerged into the rapidly darkening London street, and my sense of feeling like a trapped animal with the ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ scenario wasn’t helped in the slightest by having to negotiate escalators and stairs with dilated eyes at the height of rush hour and then cram myself onto a packed tube train.

Panic and paranoia

It’s been a bad couple of weeks on the eye paranoia front.  On a scale of one to ten (one = I don’t even think about my eye issues, and ten = ringing Moorfields and looking up train times whilst trying to breathe evenly in order to calm my pounding heart), I’ve probably been about a seven or eight this week.  The fact that it was my first week back at work doing full-time hours probably hasn’t helped matters.  Even on a good day, my eye aches and feels uncomfortable.  After a full day at work on a computer (even with breaks and leaving on time), I’ve been coming home with my eyes feeling scratchy and sore, and so tired that I just want to close them and sleep.  Just to add another dig in the ribs, my companion Insomnia has been rearing her ugly head again, too.  I can’t bring myself to do what a friend was once advised for his insomnia – go downstairs and read the ‘phone book until he felt tired and then go back to bed and try and sleep.  So instead I just shift from one side to the other (still not allowed to sleep on my back), and try to think of happy things… like the day when there will be a miraculous cure for retinal detachments without having to go through multiple surgeries and deal with sometimes crippling anxiety about repeat detachments.

The paranoia of the past couple of weeks started when i parked my car one sunny saturday morning and looked up at the blue sky, blinked, and saw a grey circle hovering threateningly in the sky.  I blinked again and it was gone.  Closed my eyes, opened them, and there it was again.  Blinked, and it was gone.  I must have sat there in the car for a good twenty minutes doing this like some kind of lunatic, before I noticed that there was a circular sign just in front of the car with a white border.  I now *think* that what I was seeing was a kind of after image of this.  I spent the rest of the day at various points stopping dead, staring up at blue sky and blinking, but I didn’t see it again.

I’d just about pacified myself over that, when the headaches started.  Every few days.  Not bad, but enough to feel pants and irritable.  I started to think it must be my eye pressure going up, so I went off to the opticians to get the pressures checked.  18 in both eyes.  Pheeeeew!  That was okay then!  So what was causing the headaches?  Increased hours at work?  Insomnia?  Stress?  All three most probably…

The headaches have improved over the past few days (I hope I don’t jinx it now), but my current paranoia involves looking right then left again, convinced I can see something pulling at the edge of my vision.  I have had this before many times and asked about it at many of my appointments and am always told it’s okay.  I even went and got my little eye book out the other day to check what’s been said about it in the past in the hopes that it would make me feel a bit better.  I’ve never received a satisfactory answer about what exactly it is, but have been told ‘it could be the oil’.  It seems I’m often told ‘it could be the oil’ when they’re not sure what it is.  A bit like going to the GP and being told that you have ‘a virus’.  But until I can ask about it again, it’s worrying me.  Plus I seem to be getting some more flickering in a different area of my eye.  I’m hoping this isn’t more of the retina starting to detach, as is the case with the almost psychadelic flickering which I often get at the bottom of my eye.  I keep obsessively checking my visual field against the various markers in my house, and at the moment, thankfully, it seems to be unchanged.  But I still worry, because I don’t know why it’s flickering.  My next appointment isn’t until 28 September, which seems an age away at the moment.  I fear I may be carted off in a straitjacket before that time.

Stitched up

This week I once again trekked up to what is rapidly becoming my second home in Surrey for another pressure check at the hospital there.  My mum’s dog was delighted to see me.  My old consultant less so.  However, he did ask my mum how she’d been getting on since he performed her cataract operation a few months ago and when I told him that my sister had recently been for an eye test and her eyes were fine, he seemed quite relieved that he wouldn’t be having to deal with any more members of the family.  The pressure check was duly performed (see the last paragraph of: https://rdramblings.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/under-pressure/ if you’re wondering how this is done), and my pressure was within the normal range – yay!  However, there was still some inflammation, and I reported that my eye had still been getting quite red and continued to be rather more sore and uncomfortable than usual.  ‘Well’, he said, ‘there’s a little stitch in the left-hand side and I can see two little bits of it poking out, which will be causing the inflammation and discomfort so I’m just going to try and get that out for you.’  Having been told by an old family friend about her experience of having a stitch taken out (by the same surgeon, I might add), I was quite looking forward to the same huge improvement which followed it being removed.  She’d told me it was a simple process, done by some kind of machine, and she didn’t feel a thing.  As this friend is hugely squeamish about her eye (she wore dark glasses in the house and refused to look at her eye for a good couple of weeks after her macular hole operation), I figured that it would be a piece of cake for me, and so I nodded happily and rested my chin on the contraption as directed. Instead of using a machine, my consultant tore open a packet and withdrew some kind of instrument which looked suspiciously like a pair of tweezers.  He peered through the magnifying contraption, holding another magnifier close to my eye and approached from the other side with the tweezers.  Luckily I couldn’t see much because of the bright light, but I certainly felt it when he tried to pull out the stitch, and yelped accordingly.  Now I like to think I have a fairly high pain threshold, but that was definitely well over my limit of what I could silently endure.  ‘Pop your chin back, so that I can just have another go’, he said in his deceptively soothing Irish lilt.  I obeyed reluctantly, and braced myself.  A few seconds later… ‘Ooouuuuch!’, I gasped, adding, ‘That hurt quite a lot’, just incase there was any doubt remaining.  ‘No, I don’t think that’s a good idea – it’s not coming out’, he said, stating the blatantly obvious.  I could have told him that the first time, from the uncomfortable pulling sensation in my eye as he tugged at the end of the stitch.  ‘Will it be okay now?’, I asked him nervously, as my eye watered profusely down my cheek.  ‘Oh yes’, he replied cheerfully, ‘it’ll settle down – I’ll just pop an antibiotic drop in it for you.’  He then instructed me to keep up with the steroid drops for the inflammation, handing me a prescription for another bottle.  I walked shakily out of the clinic and went to find a mirror with which to inspect the damage.  Well.  No wonder he’d prescribed more steroid drops: ‘Look at the state of it now – it’s all red again!’, I wailed to my mum.  She sensibly suggested tea and cake in the hospital cafe while we waited for the prescription, and the almond and cherry slab did something to salvage the situation but didn’t stop me asking her every five minutes, ‘Is it still as red?’. This episode has done little to improve my ‘eye paranoia’, as I now find myself peering at it in the mirror and trying to see if I can see two ends of a stitch poking out of the left-hand side of my eye.  Of course, I can’t.  But I know they’re there now.  The next morning, coming out of the bathroom following the customary few minutes of staring at my eye in the mirror, I bumped into my mum coming up the stairs and asked her casually, ‘Got any tweezers?’.  ‘Yes’, she replied, ‘What do you want them for?’  ‘Well’, I answered with a straight face, ‘I thought I’d have another go at getting that stitch out’.  She gave me ‘The Look’ before shaking her head and half laughing at the same time, ‘I still can’t believe he did that!’  No, nor can I… but at least I can joke about it now, I suppose.