Solipsism Gradient

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Hiatus: better…

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Yes, things are getting better. The visual distortion I reported two months ago has lessened significantly; it’s still there, but much less pronounced and not as annoying. Hopefully all will be cleared up in a few more months, as promised; I’m scheduled for a new eye check-up 6 weeks from now.

There are two faint gray sickle-shaped shadows remaining around the central focus area, no doubt some retinal scarring resulting from the operation; they’re visible only when viewing uniformly coloured areas.

Otherwise, my depth perception has returned almost to normal and I’ve made progress on my table tennis training, somewhat hampered by the heat — it’s been between 30 and 34º for weeks. Stay tuned.

Hiatus: progress!

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I know you’ve all been waiting for an update on my eye surgery
…not really? Well, here’s one anyway.

Fast recap: here’s how things looked from my right eye —  it’s just slightly exaggerated. It’s called a macular pucker, and reading Spalding Gray‘s monologue about it wasn’t very comforting. The darkened, twisty part was unfortunately almost right in the middle, so reading with that eye was impossible, and the whole 3D experience was unreliable.

So, 3 weeks ago I had that somewhat scary vitrectomy operation and I’m happy to report that the surgeon said that, technically, everything went well — no infection, no visible scarring on the retina, no harm to other parts of the eye. Whew. In the meantime, I still have two weeks of antibiotic and steroid eyedrops every few hours; a small price to pay, of course!

Subjectively, the darkened blob is almost gone and the twisty parts are very gradually spreading apart and getting smaller; there remain two gray curved marks around the center, only noticeable when looking at a uniform background. Everything should stabilise in about a year and, with some luck, my eyeglasses should need no changing.

In another week I should be ready to resume my (relatively) new favorite activity: serious table tennis. I’ve started training regularly again two years ago, after about 40 years off the tables, and will write regularly about the topic here.

Hiatus: why?

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As I’ve said yesterday:

My software development activities are (now, officially and indefinitely) on hiatus.

The dictionary says:
hiatus | hīˈādəs | noun (plural hiatuses) [usually in singular] a pause or gap in a sequence, series, or process…

Let me tell you about the “why” first. Thanks to all of you who immediately asked if I’m OK, by the way.

Short answer: yes, I’m OK, though not as OK as in the past — but then, that’s to be expected, with all these anniversaries streaking by. Not helped at all by miscellaneous stresses originating in Real Life™. But: see below. 😳

Longer answer: in the past several years, my eyes have been getting progressively worse, to the point that reading on paper now works only with excellent illumination. OK, paper is not something I have to do on a daily basis nowadays, but reading on a screen also no longer works at the — admittedly, very small — font sizes I was used to. Jacking up the font size worked up to a point but my coding habits call for a huge amount of text visible at the same time. Stopping work altogether to wait for an improvement has, retrospectively, killed all my momentum. (I’m still waiting for that improvement, unfortunately.) Also: see below…

Medical answer: during a trip to Bhutan (highly recommended!) in 2014 I suffered a posterior vitreous detachment in my right eye; no doubt due to day-long van trips over their highways-in-progress. A couple of months later, a beginning retinal detachment was fixed by laser surgery, and everything seemed OK for a time. However, visual contrast worsened until, in 2016, I had to have cataract surgery on both eyes; this was when I stopped working altogether, waiting for my eyeglass prescriptions to stabilise. While that took longer than expected, I also found that there seemed to be no combination of monitor brightness/contrast that made working longer periods tolerable. To make things worse, the vitreous detachment seems to have left a scar on the right retina, causing a macular pucker; surgery on that (a vitrectomy, yikes!) is now scheduled to happen before the end of this year. My eye surgeon assures me that should take care of everything… digits crossed!

Needless to say, all this has been somewhat disheartening, and — as far as coding and blogging are concerned — I seem to have joined the Procrastination Monks for a few more years.

In the meantime, other things have happened, some quite positive! Stand by for more news…

Some years ago, when I needed to re-check my eyeglasses’ prescription, I found an article on the Internet about an optician – I think in Los Angeles – who was making special glasses for computer users. (I can’t find that URL anymore, unfortunately.)

Aside: my personal case is rather uncommon. I’ve always been nearsighted in the left eye (-4 to -5 diopters), while my right eye was normal. The left eye also has a slightly different color response, seeing things a little greener and darker than the right. Until my late 30s, both eyes had an overlapping range where both would focus well… starting at 30cm out and going to about 90cm (1 to 3 feet if you’re stuck in the imperial backwaters). Then, presbyopia set in and astigmatism became worse; my eyes’ focusing ranges no longer overlap at all, so I started needing different eyeglasses to work and to drive. (I still need no glasses to read with the left eye, at least.)

Anyway, having two different eyes taught me to be able to switch between them as needed and to tense and relax the eyeball voluntarily – call it manual focus. I hear this can be learned in a short time even if your eyes are equivalent.

So, the trick is to learn to relax your eyeballs, deliberately making stuff go out of focus. When you do that, you should see things at some distance between 4m and infinity in perfect focus. Next, you should measure your desired working distance to your screen; mine is exactly at arm’s length.

Now you go to the optician and do all the standard procedures, except that you’ll hold that small eyechart at arm’s length, or whatever your preferred distance is, and relax your eyeballs throughout – think of “idly gazing into the distance”. I find that the resulting diopters are about 0.25 to 0.5 stronger than they are for my driving glasses, but of course YMMV. Ideally this should also be done without any of those pesky dilating eyedrops, as you want your eyes to be as near to the normal state as possible.

If you did this correctly, you should be able to sit at your screen for hours without any eyestrain. Of course you still should get up and stretch every thirty minutes or so, unless you also have an “infinity focus” chair… icon_wink.gif

I seem to remember hearing that there are modern laser-based machines that measure your lens directly without having you read charts or whatever; I suppose that if you run into such a thing, you’d have to do the “relax” trick while this is done. Be sure to talk it over with your optician; mine needed some convincing the first time.

Update: this article about computer glasses confirms my experience. You may want to check other articles on that site for more up-to-date information about vision problems and corrections (especially if you’re based in the USA).

New eyes for old

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Halley just came out of cataract surgery (and she’s younger than I am, I hasten to add). Seems it was just marvelous:

…I am in some rapturous drug trip. I don’t even want to think of how much I WAS NOT SEEING.

I see a clock — the second hand is SCREAMING at me — hi, Halley, hi, Halley! I go into the bathroom, the chrome faucet looks like it’s on silver fire, I jump back from it to avoid getting scalded by light.

That’s the sort of thing one likes to read after all the bad news one sees elsewhere…

…hopefully doing her second eye will double the effect. I can’t wait to read about it.

I won’t need this sort of thing for some time, but hopefully by then jelly-like replacement lenses will be perfected and on the market; that would allow me to ditch my current glasses. As I have an odd combination of eye problems – 5.5 myopia in the left eye, combined with astigmatism in the right eye, and now presbyopia – I need one set of glasses for driving (or lately, doing almost anything that demands far vision) and another one optimized for working at my laptop.

The latter is optimized so as to put the screen at a virtual distance (focus-wise, that is) of 5 meters. This allows me to work long hours without tiring, as the eye stays perfectly relaxed. Still, it would be great to do without glasses altogether in all situations, but the current state of the art isn’t there yet.

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