My mother was diagnosed with age related macular degeneration (AMD) when she was in her late seventies/early eighties.  It’s a medical condition which results in the loss of central vision.  Put your two fists together between your eyes and imagine that what you see in your peripheral vision is all that you are able to see.  You will never go completely blind, but for this kind of visual impairment there is no cure.  It doesn’t get better.

There are lots of things I know about eyes and what can happen to them, so I go for regular eye exams.  People who say they don’t need to be seen by an optometrist because their vision is just fine are not being smart or realistic.  There are serious eye diseases that don’t have obvious symptoms to us but can be diagnosed and treated by an eye doctor before things progress to a stage where nothing can be done.  Yes, I am trying to scare you.  Did it work?

My last eye exam was six months ago, and I was supposed to see the doctor again in a timely manner for DFE (dilated fundus examination) or examination of the back of the eye after using dilation drops to open the pupil.  He suggested I come in for that on my day off, but only seriously irrational people come to work when they don’t have to, so I kept putting it off.  The drops sting and the slit lamp light hurts my eyes.  But I decided suddenly to stop being unrealistic and stupid last week and just get it done when the doctor was coming in and I was working and W was driving me home.  (Because he has decided it’s not good for my car to sit outside in a cold parking lot all day, he has absolutely nothing better to do, and he loves me dearly.  That last one I thought up all on my own.)

Since I am somewhat of a wimp, I administered my own drops, including a drop of Alcain in each eye which has a numbing effect so that the dilating drops are less uncomfortable, by which I mean they feel less like someone is stabbing you in the eyeball.  During the examination the doctor noted the presence of drusen, a normal thing that develops in the eye with age, but it can also be an early sign of AMD.  He prescribed a multi vitamin specifically for eye health and supposedly good for slowing down the degenerative process.

I spent the rest of my shift looking stoned with enormous pupils and extremely blurred vision.  Apparently the numbing drops enhance the performance of the dilating drops so that the effects last longer than they would normally – up to four hours on average.  I did not know this, but I will remember it for next time.  Looking at the light from the computer was almost painful.  At some point in the evening I wandered off to the pharmacy in search of the miracle vitamins which contain Omega-3, Lutein, Zeaxanthin, vitamins C and E, Zinc and Copper and FISH OIL.  Specifically, anchovy and sardine fish oil.  Blech.

I take a lot of vitamins, including C, B12 and magnesium.  And lots of D because here we sometimes forget that the sun is an actual bright round yellow ball in the sky and not just some mysterious source of indirect light that temporarily dissipates the winter gloom once in a while.  (Ha!  See how I subtly worked that little weather related complaint in there??  We’re also getting another crazy snow dump today, but telling you that doesn’t have much to do with eye problems unless we get ourselves started on snow blindness, and this thing is already too long as it is.)

Anyway, after checking out everything else I’m taking and regulating dosages accordingly like I’m some kind of pharmaceutical graduate, I am now popping two gigantic red gel caps in the morning and two more at night as an AMD preventative measure.  These stupid pills absolutely STINK.  I have learned to open the bottle at arms length without inhaling and tap them out onto the counter and not into the palm of my hand because the fish oil smell clings to my skin.  I hold my breath while I swallow them.  I have asked a co-worker to please be up front and honest with me and let me know if I start to smell like a dead fish.

The things we do for health and longevity.  I know there are much worse scenarios that can happen to you than AMD and that it isn’t necessarily hereditary and that fretting about it does no good whatsoever.  If it happens, it happens, and I will try to cope with it the same way my mother did, with acceptance and grace and a wonderful optimistic attitude.  And possibly fish breath, which probably will keep people with contagious germs far away from me.

There’s always a silver lining to every fuzzy cloud.