The process of ageing

Today it was time for my annual appointment at the eye clinic. I was diagnosed with glaucoma some years ago, and have to have my eyes checked as a result. Luckily, I have the disease in a mild form, and regular use of prescription eye drops makes sure that the internal pressure in my eyes remains low. I got the bus from Dereham, across to the main hospital just on the outskirts of Norwich. This takes a circuitous route through some nearby villages, and it was nice to see a different view of them, from the elevated position on the top deck of the double-decker bus. It was also the first use of my concessionary bus pass, which allows free travel on buses. (Once I had turned 62, in 2014.)

I was seen very quickly, considering how packed out the clinic was this afternoon. A standard eye test confirmed that my varifocal prescription is still current, so I could move on to the next step, being examined by the eye doctor. Shown to another very full waiting area, I was once again surprised to be called in after less than ten minutes. The pleasant lady doctor then arranged my head into the frame, before commencing the series of necessary tests. These can be unpleasant sometimes, but drops of local anaesthetic are inserted first, so it is more uncomfortable than painful. A device is rested against your open eyeball, to measure the pressure, This is far more accurate than the familiar puff of air used at the high street optician. I have to have my eyelid held open by the doctor during this procedure, as otherwise I will surely blink, and ruin the test.

Following this, a series of magnifying lenses are held in place on the eyeball, and intense lights shone though them. This enables the doctor to see the back of your eye, which she then compared with photos taken last year. Both results were encouraging. The pressure was stable, and there were no changes at the back of the eye either. This meant that I could forego further tests this afternoon, and have them next year instead. At the end of the consultation, I asked the doctor if she could tell me why I was finding it so difficult to drive at night. This aversion to driving in the dark around country lanes has always been there, but over the past six months, it has become a real issue. The oncoming lights are more dazzling than ever, and I find it difficult to make out junctions, once I have been almost disorientated by the lights of approaching cars. “That will be the cataract in your right eye,” she casually replied. “We could remove it with surgery, but best to wait until your left eye is as bad, and we will do them both around the same time.”

Hold the phone! Cataract? I know 63 is far from young, but I have always associated cataracts with people in their eighties. As well as that, my Mum had a bad situation following cataract surgery that left her almost blind, for the rest of her life. I expressed all this to the doctor. She added that I was about the ‘right age’ to detect the problem, and that both eyes will almost certainly have to be done, ‘before the age of 70.’ Going on to cheerfully inform me that, “all surgery carries risks, however minor the operation.” Up to that moment, I had been feeling pretty good. I thanked her for her honesty, and her careful treatment, and wandered out to the bus stop in the hospital grounds.

I spend a lot of time joking about getting old, but history has really caught up with me today.

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17 thoughts on “The process of ageing

  1. Pete, after an initial exam like yours late last year, I had some extensive testing done on one of my eyes because my vision in that eye sometimes partially blurred out for hours at a time. I not only underwent an MRI to check the health of the optic nerve to my brain but also an echocardiogram to test blood flow to the eyeball. It turned out that that neither the optic nerve nor the blood flow was the root of the problem. The culprit was a rather larger “floater” in my vitreous humour. Large floaters can be extracted, but they tend to move around and sometimes disintegrate on their own, so typically doctors take a “wait and see” attitude towards them. I was relieved that I didn’t suffer any eye ailment more serious than a floater (which seems to have taken a hike since those tests were performed). However, I was not too happy to learn, thanks to the echocardiogram, that I have a slightly leaky heart valve. But, hey, as long as nature’s valentine keeps on pumping…

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    1. I am sure that the leaking valve won’t restrict you too much, and is also easily rectified by what they regard as ‘routine’ surgery these days, if it gets worse. The disappearance of your floater has a limerick written all over it…
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Getting old but growing wiser through the years. When dad was alive, he had one of his eye lenses changed and his vision went back to normal. Mom at 86 needs cataract operation too, actually a simple procedure now than it was years ago but she is afraid to undergo such. I told her that she need not be confined at the hospital and that it is an outpatient procedure but I cannot convince her to even has her eyes checked.

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    1. It is a one-day procedure indeed, Arlene. It has a high success rate these days too. I can understand why your Mum has her doubts, at 86, but she would surely benefit from improved vision, during the years that are left to her?
      My own concerns are about being wide awake during the operation! But I will have to have it done at some stage, in the next few years.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  3. night driving has always been a challenge for me, Pete, and we are of the same age. more so now that i have the early onset of cataract on my left eye. the process of ageing indeed! πŸ™‚

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      1. there’s always the other side of the coin, Pete! the good and the fun far outweighs these minute nuances! overall life is good! have a wonderful weekend! πŸ™‚

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  4. If you wait until the other eye is as bad, you won’t be able to see properly at all. There’s been no change in my right eye during the time my left has become totally fogged. There is no way I would cancel the op in January and wait, as your optometrist has advised. Just saying. Perhaps she thinks we just vegetate and it’s not important to have decent or reasonable sight when older. I’ve always been told that cataracts don’t just affect the old!

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    1. Thanks for your good advice, Sarah. I had no idea how many people were affected by cataracts at a relatively young age. Other than the night-driving, I have not noticed any change in my vision, so the news of the forming cataract came as a surprise. If it gets worse, I definitely will not ‘wait for both.’
      Best wishes, Pete. x

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  5. No worries, I’m in my 50s and have cataracts. I have not had surgery yet, either. Actually, I just heard that some drops are being developed that can deal with the cataracts so that surgery may not be needed. I’m going to see if I can hold out until the drops are approved for use.

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  6. Had my cataracts out at around age 60. The lenses were replaced by artificial ones and my distance vision was simply perfect for several years although I could not read without reading glasses. Then I developed other problems relating to my diabetes. “Golden Years” my ass!

    πŸ™‚

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    1. That’s interesting to read, Frank, thanks for that. I had always imagined cataracts to be a problem for much older people. Sorry to hear about the diabetic eye problems, and I have to agree with you about those ‘golden years.’
      Best wishes, Pete.

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