Saturday, July 23, 2011

Look Into My Eye

I'm not particularly diligent about my ocular health. OK, fine. I'm not particularly diligent about most aspects of my health. But when it comes to my eyes, as long as I can see pretty well, I don't worry about getting them checked every year and I certainly don't do the full kit and kaboodle dilation, visual field test, and acuity.

If you know me and my family history, you might think that's odd given that my mother is blind. In fact, I wrote about that very thing way back here and even showed you textbook pictures of the optic nerve head drusen...the condition that's caused her blindness. A condition I also have with no impact to my vision.

Maybe it's because, when I was younger, I did go to the eye doctor every year, did have a lot of tests just to be sure, did have to be dilated every time, did get glasses when I was 10, did have vastly uncomfortable pictures taken of the insides of my eyes that, when it became clear I was not blind nor was I likely to be blinded by my optic nerve head drusen, I figured I didn't need to worry about it.

And I don't. Not a bit.

In fact, I don't remember the last time my eyes were dilated. Maybe 1997? I hadn't had an acuity test in nearly 6 years.

Out of necessity for both new contacts (why yes I certainly can make a year's worth of disposable contacts last almost 6...why do you ask?) and to use up the remaining funds in my flexible spending account, I went to the eye doctor eye doctor who'd never seen me, didn't know my history, hadn't ever taken a look inside my eyes.

I figured there would be a quick acuity test, a fast script written, and I'd be on my way. However, the optometrist's office where I went - working in conjunction with the Lenscrafters in the Cherry Creek Mall - were not about to let me off the hook without a full exam.

And oh my! How the technology has changed!

First, the assistant told me they would dilate my eyes if I'd allow it. Otherwise, they had a new technology called the OPTOMAP Ultra-Widefield Retinal imaging that they could use but it would cost $38 more. However, since I had $962 to spend, I wasn't concerned about the extra dollars as much as I was concerned about how I was going to get everything else done I'd planned on a Saturday afternoon if my eyes were dilated, blurry and light-sensitive.

What the OPTOMAP does is take a panoramic picture of the inside of your eyes. It takes a 1/4 of a second, is virtually painless, and doesn't require 20 minutes of sitting around fidgeting waiting for dilation to occur. It also allows the doctor's office to store the image digitally for future diagnostics...a benchmark, if you will.

Now, as I said, I've had pictures taken of the inside of my eyes when I was younger, back in 1989, to capture the spectacularness of my optic nerve head drusen - practically identical to my mom's - which have been described as both the best example and the worst case of drusens our eye doctors had ever seen. Back in 1989, this required me to hold my head very still and to keep my eyes open very wide while a ginormous camera was held up right up to my eyeball and several images taken in quick succession with a strong flashbulb going off. I wasn't supposed to blink. Frankly? It was uncomfortable if not painful.

This technology did the exact same thing in the blink of an eye - no pun intended - and was absolutely pain free.

By the way? This isn't a commercial for OPTOMAP. I'm just telling you it was pretty damn cool.

OK! So they took the pictures, then they did some other stuff I wasn't familiar with, then they did the visual field test which I was very familiar with and the one that always makes me nervous because, if I am going blind from my drusen? That's the test that's going to show it.

All clear. *whew*

The doctor came in then. He started with the acuity test. He was quite nice and, I'd find out later (once I was allowed to pop my contacts back in), attractive. He saved the retina image review for last so that I could see it and go through it with him.

I didn't mention to him the optic nerve head drusen. First, I wanted to see just how good this imaging technology really was. Second, I wanted to see just how good he was...whether he'd know what it was right away and whether or not he'd comment.

When he brought up the images on the computer screen, he got really quiet for a minute. His eyes got really wide. And then he turned to me with a huge grin, practically bouncing, and said, "Well now. Yes! Here we have optic disc drusen." I smiled, yes.

He'd never seen them outside a textbook before. I told him that, while he was perhaps too young, it was possible the pictures he'd seen in the textbooks belong to my mother. He was SO EXCITED! I'm fairly certain I made his day. He asked all sorts of questions about my vision and my mom's vision, interested in how her blindness manifested.

This is what it is to have something only 1% of the population is afflicted with. It's kinda cool. It kinda, in a way, made me feel really special even though the only thing I did to deserve that recognition was to be born genetically defective *laugh*. And I'm glad I turned a likely humdrum Saturday at the office into a fun find for him. That was totally cool.

But! You know what was the coolest?

Because OPTOMAP is a digital image, it's also possible to e-mail the images and guess who is now the proud owner of a picture of the inside of her eyes?

If you look closely, maybe you can see the inside of my brain.

Left eye - click photo to enlarge

The yellow circle in the middle-ish is the optic nerve. The optic nerve should be smooth and circular in appearance. As you can see, mine is full of lumps and bumps. Those are the drusen. Cool, huh? The right eye is similar but the left eye image was the clearest.

Sweet. Innards.


zero hour said... !

Anonymous said...

I had this done recently and I really wanted to get a big ol' print and frame it!! The sample images on their computer screen were so pretty!!


Jenni said...

The pics are so awesome. You can see that the drusin luminesce, which is pretty freaky. Awesome.