My Annual Tryst with the Ophthalmologist
I started wearing glasses when I was six years old. Judging from how bad my eyes were even with that first prescription—I had to wear them all the time from the get-go—I probably needed them before that. Over the next year, my vision deteriorated so rapidly that the ophthalmologist, an entertaining gentleman named Dr. Guilette who wore a small eyeball tie pin, gave a standing order with his office staff to give me an immediate appointment whenever my mother called saying I was having trouble seeing again. Sometimes I went only 3-4 months between prescription changes. The optician gave my parents a frequent shopper discount decades before anyone else had the idea.
Within just a couple of years, I was wearing what were not so charitably called “coke bottles,” thick lenses that revealed to all the world just how myopic I was. After Dr. Guilette died, I started with a new doctor who fitted me with contact lenses during my sophomore year in high school, thus freeing me from the burden of wearing glasses during every waking hour. But optics technology was also advancing with the advent of high-index lenses that dramatically reduced the thickness of eyeglass lenses for more severe vision problems.
As an adult, I saw the rate of deterioration of my myopia slow down to the point that two years ago, for the first time in my life, my prescription didn’t change from the previous year. Last year, one eye had actually improved ever so slightly, though it got worse again this year. And for the third consecutive year, my most recent prescription includes correction for a small degree of presbyopia. But as has always been the case, my biggest problem is nearsightness.
How bad is my vision, anyway? If you understand how to read an eyeglass prescription, you’ll get the answer from my most recent prescription:
For those to whom that means nothing, let me explain. I have no idea what “INT” or the numbers under it mean, but I’m told that the meanings of the other numbers, from left to right, are:
- SPHERE — correction for hyperopia (farsightedness) or myopia (nearsightedness). Positive numbers indicate hyperopia, negative numbers indicate myopia.
- CYL and AXIS — correction for astigmatism (distortion of the lens, i.e. the lens is shaped like a rugby ball instead of a basketball). Cylinder indicates the amount of distortion and axis indicates the direction of the distortion.
- ADD — correction for presbyopia (inability to focus close-up). The presence of this number indicates that it’s a prescription for bifocals.
My prescription means that I have severe myopia (this site would classify it as pathologic myopia), mild to moderate astigmatism, and very mild presbyopia. I know only one person who is almost as nearsighted as I am, though I know that even more severe cases do exist. But it’s too severe to be corrected by laser surgery such as lasik, so I’m stuck with what nature gave me. The ophthalmologist said that if I’m lucky, I’ll get cataracts at a young age because the lens replacement surgery that is done for cataracts will also correct the myopia.
In the meantime, I’ll keep on keeping on with glasses and contact lenses, and I won’t complain because at least my visual deficiencies are correctable. Besides, if my eyes were suddenly perfect, I’d really miss the annual date with the ophthalmologist.