February 24, 2006
For most of my working career I've worn glasses. And since 2003 those glasses have been bifocals. The eye doctor describes my prescription as "interesting." I'm farsighted and I have astigmatisms in each eye.
Being farsighted, it turns out, has nothing to do with the distance between you and the objects you are viewing, it has to do with where the focal point of the lens in your eyes lands. Farsighted means the focal point (the place of optimum focus) is behind the retina. Basically you can't see anything, up close or far away.
Astigmatism means the curvature of the eye is not spherical. The best example is that it is football shaped and not basketball shaped. A football has one radius side to side and a different radius end to end. Astigmatic eyes are oddly shaped.
My prescription number is only 20/40 but the combination of farsightedness and a different astigmatism in each eye means my brain has a hard time figuring out what is in focus and what isn't. The glasses cancel out the worst of the opposing astigma (is that a word?) and I can see. More or less. The problem with bifocals is that what I need to see is usually in the other half of the lens so I am constantly having to move my head to see clearly. This problem is most evident at work where I work on a huge 21" monitor and am unable to see all of the screen at once through the bifocal lens.
A couple of weeks ago I set out to get contact lens thinking that would eliminate the constant bobbing of my head at work just to see the whole screen. I talked to everyone I knew who wore contacts to get their experience. More than once I heard that astigmatism was difficult to correct with contacts. And one friend suggested I look into LASIK eye surgery. Today I had my LASIK evaluation and it turns out I am an excellent candidate for that type of corrective procedure. The doctor was very patient and answered all of my questions, and explained to me what they would do to correct my vision.
He confirmed what I had already heard about contacts and astigmatism; due to the "ridge" in my eye the lens would tend to skate around rather than seating properly and would never really work. He also said that due to my need for excellent up close vision that they would follow the "mono eye" process. Basically my dominate eye (the left one) will be corrected to 20/20 vision eliminating the farsightedness once and for all. And they will correct the dual curvature caused by the astigmatism as well. The right eye will have the astigmatism removed and will be made slightly nearsighted, providing me with the up close vision I desire. Apparently my brain will figure out which eye to use in a given situation and switch as needed.
I've known at least one person who had mono contact lens that worked on the same principle: one lens for close and one for far. The doctor assured me that 90-95 percent of all mono patients quickly adapt to the re-tasking of their eyes. And that, if I didn't adjust or wasn't happy with the result, he could reshape the right eye to be 20/20 like the left one. At no additional charge. All of this seems very science fiction-ish to me, but given that hundreds of thousands of people have had this procedure performed, and that he himself has done nearly 10,000 operations, I think it'll all work out perfectly. Due to some scheduling constraints I won't be able to have the procedure done until the third week in March, but I am already looking forward to taking my glasses off for the last time.