Tuesday, 25 July 2017

The Half-Blind Commoner

About two years ago I had the worst sleep. I kept waking up out of breath, my heart thumping hard - like out of a nightmare. Waking in the morning, I grew convinced of an impending migraine because I had a blind spot haunting my vision. I get those. Well, no headache came, but the blind spot remained, and grew.

So, off to my optometrist. She seemed worried.

So, then, I was off to an ophthalmologist in Newmarket. After a battery of tests, she seemed uncertain. Optical neuritis? Hmmm.. You better see my even more expert colleague in Toronto, she said.

So, then, I was off to a supra-specialist at Sunnybrook Hospital.

A battery of tests were done, and steroids were prescribed. (My job at the time had me running up and down stairs all day. My knees hurt most of the time. Steroids took all that pain away. Too bad prolonged use is a bad idea.) Nothing worked. My specialist wasn't surprised.

The diagnosis was non-ischemic optic neuropathy, which is irreversible damage to an optic nerve not brought on by a problem with blood vessels or a stroke. in my case, the cause was found to be sleep apnea, which can (and in my case did) restrict the flow of oxygen to the optic nerve in my right eye. Once damaged, there is no way to repair it. Taking steroids was a Hail Mary attempt to regain some vision by reducing any possibly present inflammation.

No such luck.

As most of the nerve deals with imaging the central field of vision, that's almost always where the vision loss occurs when this type of damage occurs. I have only peripheral vision left in that eye.

I have, statistically, in a five-year span, a one-in-five chance of losing my vision in my other eye for the same reason. The notion is scary. I love to read, and if my left eye goes the way of my right, I will never read again.

I was told to lose weight (I'm constantly a bit heavy), exercise (done) and to avoid eating or drinking alcohol before bed, and to practice good sleep hygiene. I am not supposed to work nights. "Obey your circadian rhythms!" I was told.

My sleep apnea is considered minor. No machine was considered necessary or even useful.  I rarely have a night like the one that cost me my vision, and when I do, I get up and stay up. It's scary.

I have been fighting to get healthy for two years now. It's not working. Sure, I swim, run, and bike long distances, but my weight remains stubborn. I have what I think is a healthy diet. Somehow, the calories sneak in there.

Something has to change.

More to come.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds scary, Mark! I have been reading The Good Gut, you may want to check it out as your diet may be healthy, but not as healthy overall as you may think. I have made a few changes in when I eat certain things, and have found a significant difference in my general health. Good luck to you!