Monday, June 07, 2004

Yes, I really am looking at you...

I have an eye condition called strabismus. I found the following definition of what I have on an optometrists website:

Strabismus or tropia are the medical terms for eye conditions commonly called by various names: eye turns, crossed eyes, cross-eyed, wall-eyes, wandering eyes, deviating eye, etc. Strabismus is not the same condition as "lazy eye" (amblyopia).

A strabismus is defined as a condition in which the eyes deviate (turn) when looking at the object of regard. The object of regard would be the target that you, the patient, regards (aims eyes toward, looks at!). Eye doctors generally look for the presence of a strabismus when looking at distance (20 feet or more); at near (16 inches for an adult and 13 inches for a child); and the lateral and vertical directions (up, down, left, or right).

When the eye turn occurs all of the time, it is called constant strabismus. When the eye turn occurs only some of the time, it is called intermittent strabismus. With intermittent strabismus, the eye turn might be observed only occasionally, such as during stressful situations or when the person is ill.

I was told by my Mom that was I born with this and when they took me to the Doctor about it when I was young, my parents were told that I would grow out of it. Well, those Doctor's were wrong. 37 years later, I still have it.

Of course it doesn't help things any that I cannot remember the last time I was NOT stressed and that is a big contributor to strabismus!

My friends and family have told me that for the most part, after they have been around me for a while, they hardly notice it. However, if you haven't seen me for a while, or I'm more stressed than usual, it's really pronounced.

I have worked in some sort of Customer Service my entire life. This, of course, requires dealing directly with the public. One of the things that is SO frustrating for me was when people would look behind them to see who I was talking to. Granted, if you don't know me, you don't know that I have strabismus, and I understand that. However if I have to tell one more person, "Yes, I'm talking to YOU!" while pointing to them, I'm going to scream! ;-)

Another thing that having strabismus causes is loss of depth perception. It's really not that noticeable until I am going down stairs and sometimes up stairs. Jef lives on a hill and there is 2 sets of stairs that you have to go up to get to his front porch. The first set is kind of steep and they slant to the side and it's really kind of scary for me to go up or down. Luckily, Jef knows this and usually lets me put a hand on his shoulder when he's with me going up or down the steps.

When I finally made it to an optometrist after many years of not going, he told me the name of what I had. I had gone through childhood and a chunk of my young adulthood thinking I had a "Lazy eye." The optometrist corrected me and told me that I did NOT have a "Lazy eye" but a strabismus. For some reason that really meant a lot to me. I guess it's the negative connotation of the word "Lazy," but I was really glad to not have that stigma. Interesting, huh?

I could have surgery, but unfortunately, because I'm an adult, the chances of my getting double vision as a result of the surgery are unacceptably high. Normally kids get diagnosed with this early and they are able to successfully have the surgery. However adult eyes don't always react as well, thus the double vision. Therefore, I need to develop more patience for those who don't realize that I am looking at them!

The other day a friend was at my house and he looked into the eyes of my cat, Fred, and said, "Both of her eyes are not looking at me!" I replied, "Well, she takes after her Mama!"

Well there you go...yet another peek into my world, this time from the perspective of the "eye direction challenged."



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