I’ve got messed-up peepers!*
When we last saw our heroine, she had just visited the chief of retinal disorders at UCLA and was scheduled for further testing. Well, that testing took place yesterday. Let me preface my recap by saying that this has absolutely nothing to do with PA, but it is yet another installment in the story of Me as Medical Oddity. And I don’t like to leave a story unfinished, so here’s what I now know:
The tests I had were the Farnsworth Munsell 100 Hue Color Test, and electroretinography or ERG. The color test was actually fun – it reminded me of being a little kid, when my artist father would dump out the entire 64-color box of Crayolas on the floor and ask me to arrange them in correct chromatic order. And apparently I passed with, pun intended, flying colors… I don’t technically have any issues with differentiating colors. I didn’t think so, but now it’s official.
The ERG, on the other hand – not so much fun, although in the company of my dear friend C I’m pretty sure that I had a better time of it than most. The test begins by sitting in a dark room for 30 minutes – something that I think would have been complete agony alone, but was actually rather entertaining with a friend – while the dilating eyedrops work their magic. Then these plastic thingies are placed on the eyes that are sort of contact lenses that keep the eyelids from being able to close. Sounds kind of awful but really was not a big deal at all. The test itself involves looking into this dark enclosure while a series of lights flash on and off, and the response my rods and cones have to these lights is measured.
Despite my main complaint being night blindness, according to the test my night vision is normal. But the third part of the test, which measures reaction to light, was not normal. The short version is that while my eyes respond normally to light in terms of time, they do not respond normally in terms of amount, which is why bright sunlight – something I dearly love, by the way – hurts my eyes and I rarely go outdoors without sunglasses and often a hat. The official diagnosis is mild cone dysfunction with photophobia and impaired night vision. Is it progressive, is it genetic, is it degenerative – these are all unknowns.
Also unknown is the cause of the night vision problems. My vitamin A levels were borderline low, so I’m on 25,000 IUs of beta-carotene for the next 4 months to see if that makes any difference.
As for night driving – the directive I was given was “proceed with caution” and basically, the minute I start questioning my abilities at all means it’s time to stop driving at night. The truth is, I’ve been questioning those abilities for years now, so I’m not certain that I’ll be the best judge of that… if the vitamin A doesn’t make any difference, though, it may be time for me to start calling a taxi after the sun goes down.
So really, the story remains unfinished, but what can be concluded is this: I don’t have (as originally feared) any signs of ocular damage from prolonged uncontrolled hypertension. And as far as I’m concerned, that’s a good thing.
*Enormous apologies to Johnny Mercer and Harry Warren. I could not help myself.