Detached Retina – I’ve Got Oil in My Eye

The light shading in this image represents the oil. The macula is in the middle.

The shading in this image represents the oil.

This post is not a substitute for talking with your physician.

Since oil was put into my right eye to hold my retina in place for several months, I’ve been humming an old Sunday School song, “Give Me Oil in My Lamp,” last sung, by me anyway, some time ago. The only difference is that I’ve changed the words. (Listen to the original song here.)

I’ve got oil in my eye, keep me healing.
I’ve got oil in my eye, I pray.
I’ve got oil in my eye, keep me healing.
Keep me healing ’til the break of day.

In early August my surgeon put silicon oil in my right eye after the retina kept detaching due to a condition called proliferative vitreoretinopathy. The oil holds the retina in place for a longer period than any bubble can — right now it looks like the oil will remain for about four months — holding my retina firm and promoting the healing process.               

With oil in my eye it feels as if I am looking through a translucent water balloon, so I experience quite a bit of distortion with straight lines curving and much glare. Interestingly, the peripheral vision on the right is far less distorted. I perceive people and things there almost normally.

Dr Patch 1

Sticky plastic from Dr.   for patches.

Because I teach in the K-12 world and use computers a lot (if you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I post quite often), the glare causes a lot of frustration. After each of the first three vitrectomies in my right eye, I spent a good deal of time with my right eye squeezed shut while the bubble disintegrated over several weeks — once I had finished looking down or lying on my side.

But this strategy made me look really funny and seemed to be causing my eyelid to droop and lose strength. Also, as the oil could be in my eye for months and months, I wanted to keep my eye open as much as possible while inhibiting the glare. So I looked around for an alternative solution.

Se. Patch 2

More reusable adhesive plastic from Dr. Patch.

I tried taping and gluing paper or fabric to the lens of my reading glasses, but neither was robust enough to make it through even a day. Then I tried designing and sewing a fabric cover that went over both sides of my lens and closed with velcro at the bottom, just above my cheek. This would have been the perfect solution if I had been able to make a thin enough cover that did not irritate my eye lashes and therefore my eye.

The best solution came after Googling eye patches and discovering a Canadian company, Dr. Patch, that sells reusable plastic stickers that can be cut into different shapes and put on and taken off the lens without damaging the adhesive (and without leaving any residue on my glasses). The sticky plastic worked perfectly. My right eye stayed open, the patch substantially decreased the glare perceived by my eye, and I happily went about daily tasks that require reading and computer work.

Non prescription glasses without the patch.

Non-prescription glasses without the patch.

But walking around was still an issue. The glare and the curvy distortions did funny things to my depth perception. I called around to several glasses vendors, big and small, trying to get a pair of glasses with no prescription, which would allow me to use a sticker on the right lens while seeing perfectly with my left. Not a single local company was geared up to sell such a thing to me.

Non prescription glasses with the patch.

Non prescription glasses with the patch.

So my adult daughter suggested Warby Parker, an online glasses provider that asks whether you are seeking non-prescription lenses during the purchase process. I explored the website looking at the glasses, chose my frames, checked the non-prescription box, paid my money, and received my glasses three days later.

I put a Dr. Patch sticker on these glasses, too, and thanks to the variety of stickers from this company, I can change the design frequently. My students have started asking me when I will be wearing the patch pattern that they like best. I may just splurge and purchase a second pair of Warby Parker glasses.

So, bottom line, I am coping with the oil in my eye. Though I keep asking my surgeon to wave a magic wand and make my eye better, they don’t issue wands in medical school, nor do doctors have access to an Ollivanders Wand Shop (see Potter, Harry). I really have no guarantee that the oil will work. It may, and my surgeon thinks my retina has a good chance of healing this time around, but it could also be, a few months hence, that my detached retina story is not yet finished.

In the meantime I continue to go about daily life quietly humming, “Keeping me healing ’til the break of day.”

One thought on “Detached Retina – I’ve Got Oil in My Eye

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