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.