JRA

The Eye Ultrasound (and other strange medical tests)

This morning I had a follow-up eye doctors appointment. I have been seeing a retina specialist for about two years to follow a cyst in my right eye. Initially the discovery of this eye cyst was very unnerving because they were unsure of it’s origin or pathology.  However, it seems that somehow the cyst is in the perfect place, between all the important eye structures and my glaucoma tube shunt implant. And as long as it remains there, happily not bothering anyone, no one seems overly concerned anymore. As a result, every 6 months I visit this specialist and have two eye tests done, photographs of the inner parts of my eye and an eye ultrasound. When I first heard I needed an ultrasound, I thought “wait, how does examining my stomach tell you anything about my eye?” There are indeed a ton of different types of ultrasounds and ways to use ultrasounds. Physical and occupational therapist often use ultrasounds to provide deep heat to joints, muscles and tissues. An eye ultrasound is not a painful test but it continues to be one of the strangest sensations I experience. I am by no means uncomfortable with eye drops or touching my eyes. I have worn contact lenses since 5 years old, used eye drops since before then and have had four eye surgeries. However, this test is still very strange! First, they use numbing eye drops to make your eyes more comfortable. Then they use an ultrasound stylus with ultrasound gel on it and rub it all over your eyeball, taking pictures in certain spots. It feels as awkward as it sounds. There is cool gel being rubbed onto and all over your eyeball, your vision is blurry and sometimes you enjoy the pleasant experience of cool ultrasound gel running down your cheek. Fortunately, the test is over quickly and you can move on to more pleasant tests..

My second least favorite medical test is the visual field eye exam. As a result of my glaucoma I need this test every 6 months to make sure that my visual field (the amount you can see in the periphery when your eye is focused on a point centrally) is stable. For this test you close one eye and place your head inside a giant circular bubble. These bubbles remind me of the chairs Will Smith sits in during
Men In Black. Then they flash small bright dots in various directions inside this bubble and you click a pen every time you see a dot of light. Testing each eye can take up to 5 minutes but it often feels a lot longer. I once made the horrible mistake of scheduling one of these tests the day after St. Patrick’s Day while I was in college. I had gone out the night before and was not feeling myself the next morning (read: extremely hungover). This may have been the worst possible test to take hungover as every flashing light made me feel nauseous, my eyes were tired and dry and I am sure I missed seeing many lights that day. I will never make that mistake again.

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