The Misbehaving Eye

At first it just seemed like it was harder to read. Pharmacy magnifying glasses have worked very well but all of a sudden they didn’t. My left eye seemed cloudy and no amount of rubbing and cleaning glasses made a difference. Were the grout lines in the tiles curving? Nah, couldn’t be. On a closer look they were fine.

Yesterday was worse. I covered my right eye and entered a fun house. Things were blurry and every straight line had bumps and curves. This is definitely not right! I spoke with my son in law (he works in an ophthalmology office) and he confirmed what I knew. It’s time to see a doctor ASAP.

Thankfully this is not a problem here. I went to Chiriquí hospital. The first ophthalmologist wasn’t in and I was sent to another. He wasn’t in either but could  see me if I came back in the afternoon.

I think he had me figured out as soon as I told him my symptoms, and he confirmed it on exam. My macula is inflamed and swollen. Who knows why it happened, and only in one eye (thankfully!). I was given eye drops for inflammation, pills to decrease swelling, and a referral to a retinal specialist from Panama City who will be here in a couple weeks.

A bit of eyeball info… the retina is like a sheet of tissue that covers the back of the inside of the eye, and it detects light and sends what it finds to the brain. The macula is a special area in the retina that is responsible for the sharp vision in the center of your field of vision while the rest of the retina handles your peripheral vision. Peripheral vision isn’t sharp and clear for anyone. It’s mainly to alert you to something going on so you can direct your central vision towards it. If your central vision, your macula, isn’t functioning right your vision is seriously affected.

In a perfect world, you see this grid clearly with straight lines.

In my world it’s sort of like this, but the lines are curvy through most of the box and they are speckled gray and black, not solid. I can see with my left eye well enough to navigate in my daily life but I wouldn’t want to drive, and I can read if the text it nice and big but regular size, even with glasses is almost impossible. Yeah, messed up!

I am very optimistic that my eye will get straightened out. The plan now is to see how it responds to the medication, and then see the retinal specialist who will make further decisions as necessary. My son in law was consulted and agrees the exam and treatment were appropriate, and said they see this in their office fairly often too.

You just never know what tomorrow will bring! I am SO SO thankful to be here. I saw a doctor within hours of asking and he took very good care of me, but since he’s an ophthalmologist and eye surgeon, a specialist, he’s more expensive – $60. The medications cost about $30. Keep in mind this is private care, not the much cheaper social security system which is also available.

I am also SO thankful to my teacher Yaira and everyone else who has spoken Spanish with me and helped me learn. This doctor spoke very little English. Many doctors were trained in the US and speak English well, but not all so you might bring a translator if you don’t know.

This sure makes me think of all the people with macular degeneration, a condition that sometimes can be slowed down with treatment, but can’t be cured. I have one very good eye, and another that I think will be good again soon. I’m very fortunate.


About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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14 Responses to The Misbehaving Eye

  1. Robert&Helen says:

    Hi Kris. Also avoid riding on your bicycle as it bumps. It could be that your retina got loose on a spot and if the medicine does not do the whole job, they can laser it. I had 3 eye operations when I was 20. Is the blood pressure o.k. in your eye? They test it with an air puff machine on your eye.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t think of that. I have been known to take my eye off the road and hit a bump occasionally. I’ve had that air puff thing but he didn’t do it yesterday. We’ll see what all the retina specialist does.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. oldsalt1942 says:

    When I was young, before my 40s, I had 20/10 vision. That’s like eagle eyes. Then, with age, things started changing. I developed an astigmatism. Got my first prescription glasses when I was living in France. A problem arose with my vision in Ft. Lauderdale shortly after getting a new prescription. One eye lost the sharpness the new glasses had given me only a couple of weeks earlier. The optometrist discovered that my blood pressure, not just in the eye, was sky high. That’s when I started taking BP meds and that’s under control now. My night vision is shot and I see a ghostly double image of everything when the sun goes down. Right now I need a new prescription. Getting old isn’t for sissies!


  3. Oh Kris. When we were in Mexico, I had the same symptoms. I thought it was a cataract. We were going to the states, so I made an appointment with my eye doctor. It was a macular pucker. I had a victrectomy, where they removed the vitreous humor and lasered the scar tissue. They wanted to replace the vitreous humor with a gas to hold down the retina, but then I couldn’t fly back to Nicaragua for 2 months. Something about the pressure in a plane on my eye. So, they filled it with silicon oil so I could fly back. Then, I found an excellent doctor in Managua who removed the oil 3 months later, and removed the cataract that had formed. He also removed a cataract from my good eye in a later operation.
    When I went to the doctor in Managua, he said, why didn’t they try to reduce the inflammation before they operated. That is standard procedure and makes the operation easier. So, I imagine that is what your doctor is doing with the medication.
    It has been over a year since my operation. I was supposed to go back to my doctor in Managua last week for a check up, but there is a war here, over 60 dead, so I canceled my appointment. I only need reading glasses now. When my eyes focus together, I can see perfectly long distance. I still have some distortion in my left eye and it is still sensitive to light. But, I can see and there is no cloudiness. I think it is the best it will ever be, not perfect, but I can live with it.
    Good luck and let us know how everything works out!


    • Oh wow, I remember the cataracts but didn’t realize all the stuff you went through before. I really need to be in the US for the new baby so thanks for the heads up on possible complications with that. The plan here is the meds will cure the inflammation and that will be the end of it, so hopefully it’s that simple.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mary Banks says:

    Hi Kris, I have a similar horror story. I am from the US but was living in Australia. In 2010 I went to get a new pair of eye glasses. The optician did a test and said I had a big problem. In Feb 2011, I went to a specialist and he confirmed, I was in big trouble. I had been living with a macula hole in my right eye for about 7 months! A macular hole is a tear in the macular and not if repaired can cause blindness. It was a pretty big hole by macular standards and surgery was the only solution. All in all the surgery was a piece of cake, day surgery, home that night. The next two weeks were not! I had to stay head down (except for medication) all day, very day for two weeks, even to sleep. I rented a stand for my head and spent the longest two week of my life listening to books on discs and sleeping with my head hung over the end of the bed. Next I had minor knee surgery (just to keep me on my toes…so to speak). But that wasn’t the end of the saga, next was the cataract surgery (result of the previous eye surgery). Finally, all was well and I went back to work (with the gas bubble still in my eye but livable) It dissipated after a few weeks and disappeared one day in the rest room of all places. I was ecstatic!!! I was able to travel to my home country and had a very nice visit, thrilled that I could see everyone!
    I wish that was the end but….the next year (having had all the previous experience), I noticed the same symptoms in my left eye! Back to the specialist….and he confirmed yes, it was another macular hole! But being only about 7 weeks old, much smaller than the first. Having a hole in both eyes only happens in 15% of the population with this condition!! So…The same surgery to repair the hole, the same two weeks of head down and the same cataract surgery when healed. I have been extremely lucky not to have lost my sight permanently! The end result is I can see pretty well albeit with glasses and have had no further problems. I do get checked every year or so but thank god, nothing more has come up. I’m praying your problem is solved by medication and if you ever need some company, please call me.
    Best of luck, Mary


    • That sounds totally miserable, especially the 2 weeks of head down. I wonder, reading Deb’s story above (retired and rewired…) why she could have a normal life with the silicone oil, and if so why don’t they do that for everyone?? I found out my brother in law had a detached retina in both eyes and had to do the head down thing for each also. He has a severe spinal condition which had to have made it doubly difficult.
      So, are you saying if I’m head down for 2 weeks you’ll come read to me? 😁 Kidding! Though kind as you are you’d probably do it. Thankfully things are getting better and I don’t think it will be needed.


      • chugwa says:

        What a relief Kris! I wouldn’t wish the head down bit on my worst enemy (although I don’t really have any atm). I’m so glad it’s getting better. Yes, I would come and read to you!! mi amiga! You need anything, you just holler.


  5. simplywendi says:

    I pray you are healed completely and quickly!


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