It’s the perfect time to panic!

I have macular degeneration. Wouldn’t be unusual if I were in my 70s but I’m not. I am forty and I developed macular degeneration when I was twenty-two. I had a laser surgery to stop the progression – the only treatment available at the time – and I’ve been stable since then but I see an ophthalmologist every year or so just to be safe. My right eye is pretty much useless, only have peripheral vision remaining. This is a good depiction of what I see with my right eye:

My left eye has normal vision but I do have the precursors to the disease called druisen all over my left retina. It’s the left eye we watch closely because if that were to go, it would be really bad. Imagine my panic when I came downstairs to work last Thursday and realized I couldn’t make out some of the words on my monitor with my “good” eye.  It got steadily worse and I started freaking out. My husband asked me what’s wrong and told him through my tears, “I can’t see!”

In minutes I was on the phone to my eye doc and they told me to come in right away. Before we could get ready to head out the door, my vision suddenly cleared and it was like the huge blind spot never happened. We drove to Sacramento anyhow and they did a full exam with scan and didn’t find anything wrong. We scheduled a retinal angiogram for Monday and I tried to pretend all weekend that I imagined it. Being a nutter is preferable to sudden blindness, at least it is to me.

Sunday night after we got back from the gym, bang! The disturbance was back. It got so bad I couldn’t see my own hands chopping onion and when I was standing at the stove, I couldn’t see anything on either side. I just kept telling myself, “My angiogram is tomorrow and now macular degeneration is treatable.” I repeated this over and over in my head to quell the panic. When I sat down to tuck my son into bed, my vision suddenly cleared.

Monday we drove to Sacramento again and did the angiogram. They couldn’t find any cause for trouble in my retina and as I’m describing the disturbance to my doc, he says, “It sounds like you’re describing visual migraine auras.” The flashing neon lights on the side, the sickle shape of the lights, the blank spots to the right of that, it all fit. I told him I felt silly for panicking but he reassured me that in my case, when things go wonky with my good eye, it’s perfectly ok to panic.

At home, I googled up “visual migraine auras” and eureka! This is exactly what I’m experiencing. Mayo clinic has a video which describes the auras perfectly. This is what it looked like at the worst point:

Pretty obvious why I’d panic. It’s not terribly far off what my right eye sees. In any case, I feel so much better. I almost cried again with relief. I have a follow-up with a neurologist but even if they can’t fix this, knowing it doesn’t mean permanent blindness is such good news I can’t even stand it.

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