Seeing beyond strabismus

Open window with curtainWhen I updated my post-surgery status on April 12, things weren’t looking very good, literally. My January 12 strabismus surgery had originally taken me from a torsion to near perfect vision. But my vision had deteriorated over the next few weeks, leaving me with a hypertropia, and my eye/brain connection couldn’t keep up. It was very difficult for me to do anything that required me to focus at close-up. My vision was worse than it had ever been.

But that was before the latest set of events. I could not keep up at work because of my deteriorating ability to focus, and my boss started seeking a replacement for me in mid-April. They allowed me to stay on until my replacement could be found and trained. My last day at my job was June 15. As things slowed down at work for me, my eyes were not as strained. I also got some new prism glasses that made a huge difference. Lastly, I had a sleep study done and am on CPAP for my sleep apnea now, and that has helped my eyes also.

I’m doing much better as long as I don’t overuse my eyes. I still have to stop and let them rest often. I have also developed some shortness of breath with activity related to an old injury (that’s also causing my sleep apnea), so it works out pretty good. I work on the computer until my eyes get tired, then I work on projects around the house until I get short of breath. By then my eyes are rested enough to go back to the computer for awhile!

I’m looking at work possibilities, and what I may be able to do to provide income. I’m planning to do some things from home to earn income for now. I’m also doing vision therapy from home now. Meanwhile I’m very thankful for the improvements in my vision and my relief from sleep apnea!

Photo credit: Dolamore

Keeping company in the strabismus boat!

[I received the following letter from a reader named Celia, and she gave me permission to share it here. The boat? I put us on the “Grandeur of the Seas.” We may as well enjoy the trip!]Grandeur of the sea boat

Dear Lois,

My name is Celia and I have exotropia and hypertropia.

I was so excited to find your blog. I am 31 and will be having my second strabismus surgery the first week in April. I had my first when I was 9. I have been putting it off and putting it off but I have had to have so much prism recently it’s driving me crazy. Please keep your blog going. It’s nice to know someone else is in the same boat!


Photo credit: “Grandeur of the Seas” by Keith Syvinski

Coping strategies for senior citizens with strabismus

Woman with glasses and eye looking outward[The following letter from Donna was recently written on a strabismus support group, and is used here with permission from Donna.]

My mother is 70 years young and had surgery for strabismus at age 18. She has had double vision that can no longer be corrected by prisms (she already has 12.) Sadly, she has had to curtail her driving.

I am looking for advice – How to support her emotionally, especially. Are there any seniors who can share their stories and coping strategies?

I wrote back:

I’m one of the boomers that will turn 60 this year. My children have been wonderful to help. Just knowing you are there and that you care will mean a lot to your mom.

The things I’ve always enjoyed and planned to take into retirement with me some day are mostly things that involve detailed work with my eyes. I am now coming to grips with the fact that there will likely be limits to this. There are probably some things your mother can still see and enjoy though. Photos are easier to see than printed material. Even if you can’t see it well, nature can still be beautiful…a walk in the park, or a trip to the beach may help.

The thing I’ve found most helpful through my life, though, is to use my problems to help others. Here is an excellent example of how one 80 year old woman used her failing vision to help others:
Pointed Patterns

I like the part that says she still made some pillows even though it took her longer. For those with limited vision it may take longer but retired persons have more time so can afford to spend longer to accomplish things. It works out.

Please share your stories and coping strategies, especially you seniors!

Photo credit: Ana Labate

Prism glasses: I think it must be springtime!

Snow, trees, sunshine, and blue sky with cloudsAs I write this, there is snow on the ground. It’s two weeks before Christmas, with frigid temperatures outside. Yet I think it must be springtime!

At least that is the way the world looks to me. I’ve not been able to see things this sharply since several months before my strabismus surgery in May. That all changed this week!

My local Optometrist has been working diligently with me in Vision Therapy. A few weeks ago, she made prisms glasses to help me read and work at the computer. They only addressed the horizontal drift of my eyes, and were only for closeup work. They helped, but I still wasn’t able to see clearly.

The surgery was to correct a horizontal misalignment (exotropia). But since the surgery, I’ve seen things higher with one eye than the other (hypertropia), and my left eye sees things rotated (torsion). The surgeon had told me at my first post-op visit that my brain would adjust to this and the vertical misalignment would fuse together, but it hasn’t done that.

Now my local Optometrist has added prisms at the bottom of one lense and the top of the other to help my eyes “match up” better. These vertical prisms have done wonders for me. This is the world I remember, and I had almost given up on ever seeing it this well again!

I can tell at times that things are still off a little in my left eye due to the torsion, but it is so much better than it was! Plans now are to add these vertical prisms to the horizontal prism glasses she made for reading/computer work. I still can’t read for very long, but we’re hoping the vertical/horizontal prism combination in the reading glasses will do the trick.

My eyes still tend to drift and I will always have strabismus. But the world looks clearer, colors are brighter, and the sunshine is more beautiful with less glare. Today the sun was shining brightly, over the melting snow. Yet I drove around town doing errands without my sunglasses. I was able to actually enjoy the beautiful sunshine as I used to do, rather than squint and try to shield eyes from it. Christmas is almost here, but to me this was the prettiest spring day I’ve seen in a long time. God gave me what I wanted for Christmas this year, and totally unexpected!

Oh, and I just double-checked. Nope, these new glasses don’t have rose-colored lenses. It’s the real thing!

[Update 2/24/06: The effect from the vertical prism glasses lasted about a month. My vision therapist had told me that sometimes the eyes will adjust to prism glasses so they no longer help. I think that is where we are now. Wednesday we discussed wearing my old glasses without the vertical prisms for awhile to see if I can get the “buzz” back again when I return to the vertical prism glasses. I’m using the old ones now and I suppose I’ll try the vertical prism glasses again in a week or two.]

Photo credit: “Big Bear California after a snow filled night” by Tony Castellano

My strabismus surgery

Several have asked how my strabismus surgery went. I had eye muscle surgery in May…lateral rectus recession. My eyes had been drifting a lot more prior to the surgery, and had become increasingly unstable and uncomfortable. It was difficult to hold a focus to read. My eyes are much more comfortable since the surgery, less tension, and I get a lot less headaches now. My eyes don’t drift as spastically as before surgery. They still drift though, especially at close range. I still can’t focus to read very long. My eyes look straight, but one eye sees things rotated slightly clockwise, the other slightly counter-clockwise since the surgery, and things appear higher with one eye than the other, so it was a bit of a trade-off I think.

My surgeon had told me at my one month checkup that I would likely need medial rectus resection in the fall. But when I went back last month, he didn’t seem to think that would help and made prism glasses instead. The prism glasses didn’t help either. Things were very distorted with them, and I saw two images of everything. (Update 11-15-05: I’ve since gotten prism glasses from my local optometrist, and I can see out of them much better. I have to hold things very close to my face to read with them, and can’t read for a long time like I’d hoped. But am trying to adjust to them so they will be more useful. I’ll keep you posted.)

I think if I had been able to get help sooner it may have been easier to turn things around. I’ve had strabismus over 50 years and it’s gradually gotten worse. One of my main goals with this blog is that others might find the help they need early. Not that I’ve given up. I’m grateful for the help I’ve gotten and continue to do vision therapy and work to improve my eyes. I’m learning that success may not be measured in whether I am able to read a lot again, but in what I’m able to make out of the vision I have at this point in my life.

[Update September 24, 2007: On April 12, 2007, I shared an update about my second strabismus surgery done on January 4, 2007. There are links in that post about problems I was having related to my first surgery in 2005. There is also a link at the bottom of that post to my June 23, 2007 post which updates my latest progress. I still have difficulty maintaining a focus to read. I still have difficulty finding things in a page, and I still have difficulty finding locations I’m not familiar with when driving. But I am thankful for the progress I’ve made. You can fill in the gaps of my story by clicking the Lois’ story link in the sidebar.]

Update 7/21/2012: George Alexanian has supported and encouraged many in this area of Eyes Apart. You’ll find his list of “Suggested Questions to Ask Your Strabismus Surgeon” in the right sidebar of each page of this site. Look for “George’s questions for surgeon” under “Support Groups and Helps.” Thanks George!