Most readers will be aware that I suffer from choroidal neovascularization — wet macular degeneration — in my left eye. Like the current U.S. government, the disease is progressive. Which mean that it gets worse over time — also like the U.S. government.
I was first diagnosed with the condition a little more than eight years ago. Last year it flared up again just after the “pandemic” began. The retinal specialist’s office closed down for a couple of weeks. Since we were asked not to visit healthcare facilities unless absolutely necessary, I put off going in for treatment until a month after the new symptoms appeared. That was a mistake, of course: it allowed the new growth of blood vessels to do more damage than it might have if I had had the injection promptly. If I had it to do over again, I’d say, “Screw the CDC — I’m going in.”
I’ve written the following account for my own benefit. When I describe something as distressing as this in a detailed, detached, clinical fashion, I find it helps me cope with the awfulness of it. Putting it into words seems to allow my psyche to contain it better.
This essay has nothing to do with the mission of this blog, and may be safely skipped. However, anyone who is curious about macular degeneration, or who suffers from it himself, may be interested in my descriptions.
The image at the top of this post is a simulation of what I might see in the visual field of my left eye as I begin to ascend the stairs to the Eyrie here at Schloss Bodissey. I’ve exaggerated the effect a little so that you can see it clearly, but this is basically what it looks like at night after my eye has had a bad day. The blob in the center is the scar left by the growth of a “frond” of new blood vessels in the choroid behind the retina. When that happens, fluid leaks from the blood vessels into the macula, damaging it. It can also push the dark pigment from the choroid into the retina, which darkens the field of vision at that location. That happened to me in March of 2013, and it took more than five years for the pigment to migrate to the periphery of my vision and be consumed by macrophages.
The smaller, lighter spot in the center of the oblong blob is the location where the original eruption of blood vessels first appeared, causing a bump that severely distorted my vision just to the right and below the fovea (from my perspective — since the brain inverts the retinal image, the bump was actually above and to the left). Fortunately, the Avastin injections that dried up those new vessels also made the bump shrink, so that I no longer see any topological distortion to speak of.
Because the damage to the macula did not quite overlap the fovea, I didn’t experience severe problems with focusing in that eye. However, last year’s flare-up expanded the trouble zone upwards and to the left. The top left edge of the blob in my simulation is right on the fovea, which means that my left eye now has a great deal of trouble resolving the focus in the central area of the macula.
The past year has also brought new symptoms, ones that I hadn’t seen before. The pattern of larger blood vessels in the eye gradually became visible under certain circumstances. To get a snapshot like the one at the top of this post, I would have to close my eyes for a half-second or so and then open them again. The layout of the vascular network in my left eye then appears briefly before fading out again. The central blob is initially quite bright, then fades after a moment, but never disappears entirely.
That’s on a bad day. On a good day I hardly notice any of that at all.
I also tend to see a wavy, irregular reticulated pattern throughout the visual field in that eye. It may be the interweaving of the smallest blood vessels in the retina, but it’s hard to tell.
The upshot of all this is that the visual acuity in my left eye has been significantly reduced. On a bad day, I can’t really resolve a clear, focused image at the fovea, and the area surrounding it is now also compromised.
Eight years ago, when the bump was causing such agonizing distortion, I contrived a patch for my left eye that could be fitted over the outside of my glasses. I made it from thick brown paper cut from the bottom of a Whole Foods grocery bag. Wearing it while at the screen allowed me to continue working. Late that summer, when the bump had mostly subsided, I was able to take it off.
A few months ago, when my new symptoms were at their worst, I got out that old patch and reattached it to my glasses. It was already in fairly bad shape from having been used for several months in 2013, and it didn’t hold up very well. Last week I used the same pattern to make a new patch from thicker, more rigid dark grey paper cut from a document folder: