I just wanted to give a bit of an update of a personal nature today. Many readers here on LiP have been long term friends of the site and have become almost family in many ways. Because of that you may have an interest in this personal update.
I have not said much about this on LiP over the past months that it has been an issue, but if you are a friend on Facebook you have seen some information about it.
It is all about my eyes, my vision. I started having vision problems in 2015. So far, much of 2016 has been devoted to trying to fix those problems. When I first started experiencing these vision problems it was my belief that I had cataracts. I am of the age when people start developing cataracts, and the symptoms that I had indicated to me, and others that I talked to, that cataracts were the problem. My vision was fairly dark, extreme light caused halos in my vision and other things that are common for those with cataracts.
Things suddenly changed
As I said, in around mid 2015 I started noticing some deterioration in my vision. Nothing drastic, but certainly bad enough to notice a difference. Things got worse as time passed. I had so much going on in the second half of 2015 that I decided to really focus on this issue after the New Year. In fact, right after the New Year, things came to a head. One morning, Feyma was going to General Santos for a family reunion. I was not going along because I had things to do and could not make the trip. It turned out that it was good that I was not traveling. On the Saturday that Feyma was out of town, I woke up in the morning, and I was more or less blind in my left eye. My right eye was pretty blurry, but I could still see. About an hour later, my left eye regained vision, but pretty blurry, my right eye improved significantly.
When this experience happened, shortly after January 1, 2016, I was pretty sure that cataracts were not my problem. When vision returned to my left eye, I had a strange experience that as I looked through the eye, I could see all of the blood vessels in my eye, kind of floating in front of me. I had just enough vision that I could use my computer to research this, so I started searchign Google to see what I could find out. When I searched about the vision of blood vessels thing, I started learning about a condition that I had never heard of before: Diabetic Retinopathy. I knew that people with Diabetes were prone to eye problems, even blindness, but I had not heard of this exact condition. The more I read about “diabetic retinopathy” the more I was sure that I had it. All of the symptoms fit me.
When Feyma got home the next day, I talked with her and decided I needed to get to the eye doctor as quickly as I could, so we set up an appointment to start taking care of the problem. When I had my first exam, it was confirmed, I had PDR, Proliferative Diabetic Retinopathy, meaning that it was fairly advanced.
What is Diabetic Retinopathy?
You may not have ever heard of this condition, I know I had not until recently. It is actually fairly common among diabetics. Basically, if you have Diabetic Retinopathy, a couple of things happen. Firstly, the blood vessels in your eyes start leaking, thus you have blood inside your eyeball. Second thing is that your eye starts growing new, unwanted blood vessels. Neither the blood leakage ore the new blood vessel growth are good.
There are several treatments, but as it advances the ultimate treatment is laser treatment. The laser is used for two things. Firstly, they use the laser to “burn off” or kill off the new blood vessel growth. Secondly, they use the laser to cauterize the leaking blood vessels, to stop the leakage of blood. Before laser treatment is used they try other methods, including giving injections of medication into your eyes. In my case, the condition was advanced and they decided to go directly to the laser treatments. Most people who need this laser treatment for this condition require 3 rounds of treatment. In my case, they gave me 4 rounds of laser treatment, one round per week for 4 weeks.
For the 4 laser treatments I had 3 different doctors. Laser surgeries 1 and 3 were the same doctor, but 2 and 4 were each different doctors. I liked #2 and #4 a lot, the other doctor was nice, but I preferred the others better. Reason? The two preferred doctors had more experience in working with foreigners. Doctor #1 had not worked on many (any?) foreigners before. What is the difference? Well, I didn’t think it would be any different, but a conversation with one of the doctors convinced me differently.
When I had laser surgery #1, it was very painful, I mean VERY painful. We had to stop and take breaks basically around every 5 minutes. While he didn’t say so, I felt that the comments from the doctor seemed to indicate that it was my fault and that I was just not strong enough to handle the pain. I felt bad about it, but the pain was almost unbearable. I was certainly not excited to go in the next week for my second surgery. When I went for #2, though, it turned out that I had a different doctor. I was surprised that the surgery was not painful at all, and we were able to do the complete treatment for each eye without stopping for a break. We took a 5 minute break between the treatments for each eye, but no breaks during a single eye. So, after the doctor treated my right eye, he said to take a 5 minute break before starting the left eye.
During the 5 minute break, I told the doctor that he must be a real expert on the laser because there was no pain at all! He asked me if there had been pain on my first treatment, and I told him that yes, there had been terrible pain. He looked surprised, and said there should be no pain, or only minor pain. As we talked about it, we found out what happened. The first doctor had not been used to treating foreigners. I asked him what difference it made if it was a foreigner or a Filipino being treated. He explained to me that when treating a Filipino eye with the laser, the laser had to be turned up to the maximum power/strength, in order to penetrate the dark pigmentation of the Filipino eye. For a foreigner, and especially a foreigner with blue eyes like me, the power had to be turned down quite low, because the high power setting were not necessary, since my level of pigmentation was much less than a Filipino. After he explained that, it all made sense to me. So, if you will have such laser surgery on your eyes in the Philippines, make sure the doctor is aware that different settings are necessary for foreigners.
One thing that really shook me up when I had my first laser treatment was that within just a few minutes after the doctor started treating my right eye, I was completely blind in that eye. It scared me pretty badly. When I questioned the doctor about this, he didn’t seem to understand what I was asking, and really did not answer my question. I was relieved, though, when after he completed treating that eye, my vision returned to the eye after about 10 minutes or so.
The number 1 question
The question that I hear from nearly everybody that I have told about this is this: “Is your vision really good after having this laser surgery?”
Well, let me be clear about this. This laser surgery has nothing to do with improving your vision. The purpose of this surgery is to keep you from going blind. I was also thinking that this surgery would improve my vision, but that is just not the case. In fact, after my initial exam, the doctor explained tome that my vision would not be better after the surgery, in fact, he said, my vision would be a little worse. Why would you have surgery if makes your vision worse? Well, to keep from going blind! After completing the surgery, you can then treat the vision either through a different type of laser surgery or by getting glasses or contact lenses. So, no, having the surgery did not give me great vision. I would not say that my vision is much worse than it was a month or so ago, but it is certainly not better.
My Follow Up Visit
After my final laser treatment they told me to come back in two weeks, at which time they would do a final check on my eyes to see if the treatment was successful. I had that visit earlier this week, and got my report. The results were not what I expected. What does that mean? Well, come back and visit again tomorrow and I’ll continue the story.