Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Lesson in Ocular Trouble

My father-in-law has been battling some serious eye problems of late, which began this summer while they were back home visiting Idaho and their grandkids. I've never even worn glasses, so I thankfully don't relate to eye problems.

He sent an email to my wife to describe what he's experiencing. I'm reprinting it here (with his permission) mainly because I was amazed at the level of detail, I winced at the description, and I immediately searched for a bag of carrots in hopes of never being in the same situation.

_____________________________

Katz,

This is your anatomy lesson.

The retina lines the back two-thirds of the eye. It is composed of millions of nerve endings that receives light signals and sends electical impluses to the brain - which translates an image. My retina peeled completly off the back wall of the eye and was lying in a puddle in the bottom of my eyeball. A good metaphor is like wall paper that doesn't stick and just slides down the wall into a heap on the floor. Because the retina receives light...and mine was in heap at the bottom of my eye...my brain wasn't receiving any light signals. So my right eye simply faded to black...nothing!

To fix this the Doc goes in with little tiny gardening tools and picks the retina back up and uses lasers to tack it onto the back of my eyeball. When it fell off, it also tore. So the Doc had to also use lasers to staple the retina back into one piece. The technique used to hold the retina in place so it will heal is to drain the vitreous out of the eyeball and pump a gas bubble into the eye. That is why I couldn't fly. My eye was filled with gas. As I would rise in elevation the gas bubble would expand and either blow the eyeball out or my brains out. Neither option was appealing.

The gas bubble begins to naturally dissipate into the body after about three weeks. The body's healing processes will naturally backfill the vitreous as the bubble dissapates. Because the gas bubble fills the eye it rubs agains the back of the lens. One of the common side effects of having your eye filled with gas is a cataract, a clouding of the lens. Once the lens gets scratched and cloudy it needs to be replaced. Similar to a camera lens. About 8 weeks after my retina surgery the doctor determined that my lens was very cloudy and couldn't be treated with drops or other polishing compounds and it needed to be replaced. On Thursday my cloudy lens was surgerically removed and a nice shiny new one was inserted. Doctors really get a kick out of this. I was supposed to immediately notice improvement. Small problem developed. The cornea (covers the lens) ruptured and blood began seeping down between the cornea and retina. If the blood breaks thru the already weakened retina in could cause serious damage and probably permanent sight loss. Fortunately they were able to stop the bleeding and I am now stable. The blood will naturally dissapate after a couple of weeks.

The second major side effect of retina surgery is that the retina sometimes dries out. The bubble doesn't always dissipate at a standard rate and the vitreous doesn't always replenish at the same rate. In my case I developed a little dry spot on the back of my eyeball where the Macula resides. The retina pulled apart just like wall paper when you don't have a good seal. A very small perforation exists. The Macula is the center of the retina and is where most of the nerves come together to send messages to the brain. It is absolutely necessary for reading and straight ahead sight. I have a hole there and cannot read out of my right eye. In fact, my right eye is really not functioning. I can see shawdows and some light, but that is all.

The repair for the Macula Hole is basically the same thing. The doc is going to go into the eye with his gardening tools and gently close up the hole using glue, spit, and lasers. He will fold the retina back over the hole and tack it down. He drains my eye and pumps it back up with gas which will hold the retina in place over the hole. Because the macula is dead center in back of the eye, I must lie on my stomach for 7 to 10 days so that the bubble will constantly push up on the retina, holding it in place, while it heals. This operation will probably take place in Mid - February.

I asked whether the gas would ruin my brand new, shiny lens. He doesn't think so because it is made out of artificial space age materials that should not cloud over due to the gas bubble.
That's all. please look at the picture below to see all these cool places.

I should have sent this to you earlier.

xoxo
Dad

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