It feels like I have a huge test hanging over my head every time I think about my annual eye exam. I begin the countdown by avoiding my reading glasses thus making typos in all of my writing projects. Then I strengthen my eyes by bringing the newspaper close to my face until I am cross-eyed, touch my nose and then slowly draw it back to strain my eyes into seeing the small type, causing huge furrows in my forehead that could hold a pencil.
Last year, I began experiencing an eye problem which compounded my nervousness in anticipation of the appointment. When I entered the ophthalmologist’s examining room I relaxed a little when I could read the letters and a couple of numbers projected on the wall. “I am going to ace it this year!” I said to myself. I tried to memorize the lowest line as we chatted and then she turned down the lights. You would think I could see the eye chart better that way, but the contrast somehow disappeared and my astigmatism raised its ugly head.
After flunking out with one eye, she moved on to the next. By now, I squinted while sweating bullets. “E A H K O P Z.” As I said the last letter, my hearts sank. “There is a number in there you fool!” I thought.
“Which letter do you see here?” She pointed to a blurred smudge on the wall.
I began guessing.
She sighed, made copious notes and then said, “Let’s move on.”
I rested my forehead on a machine to test for glaucoma. I kept closing my eyes knowing that a nasty puff of air would soon hit each cornea in a shock wave that nearly knocked me off my chair.
“Sit over here please.”
I did as I was told and looked through the humongous googoo-goggles which look like a metal owl mask and she began flipping through a hundred lenses to find just the right correction.
“Do you see more clearly at 1 (flip) or 2?” (flip)
“Um, I don’t know.
“1”(flip) or 2?” (flip).
“Um, I guess this one. Wait! No! Go back.”
“1” (flip) or 2?” (flip).
“I have no idea. Um 1. Wait! Is it better if the lines are thicker or thinner?
“It is up to the individual.” *
“Okay do it again.”
She took a deep breath and went through this process about 350 times. Then just like a professional Las Vegas dealer shuffling cards, she slipped the lenses into place. “Now what is the lowest line you can read?”
“I can read the type on the bottom of the eye chart. Copyright 673AF.’”
I heaved a big sigh of relief knowing that I was almost finished.
“Here is your new prescription.” She handed me a sheet of paper written in mumbo jumbo. Do you have any questions or concerns?
“Well, I have been waking up with a dry eye.”
“Oh no!” she said as my stomach clenched. “Just one you say?”
“Yep just one.” That must be better than both eyes I thought to myself Oh please don’t let it be some kind of eye disease. My mother has glaucoma and it is awful to live with.
“Is that bad? What does it mean doctor?” My mind raced as she began to explain.
“You probably sleep with both eyes open, but there is less water content in one of them and that is why you are only feeling one dry eye.”
“My eyes open? Me? No, but my daughter sleeps with both eyes open. Well, not like wide open, but you can see that they aren’t shut all the way.” And I chuckled a bit feeling somewhat relieved.
“It is known to be hereditary, so she got it from you.”
“Oh come on now. That can’t be. How could no one have noticed that I was sleeping with my eyes open all these years.”
“I have no idea, but it can be very bad for your eyes and it can make you more susceptible to eye disease. There is only one thing you can do.”
“I’ll do anything, it’s so uncomfortable.”
“You’re going to have to tape it shut.”
“What? No way! I have been married for almost 25 years and already wear upper and lower retainers to bed at night. I can’t do that to my husband! Can you imagine? ‘Hi honey I’m ready for bed.’” I closed one eye and bared my teeth for effect. She wasn’t amused.
That night I taped my left eye shut. My husband didn’t say much, but he didn’t have to.
The next morning I found a couple of fine eyelashes in the tape and said, “Screw this!”
I turned off the ceiling fan and filled the humidifier. The problem went away in a couple of weeks along with using some rewetting eye drops.
But I wondered if there could be a benefit to sleeping with one eye open…
Which annual exam do you dread?
Do you think it is creepy to sleep with your eyes open?
*My new eye doctor told me that it is better when the letters and numbers are thicker which made my eye exam a lot easier this year…
All photos by Wikipedia