bilateral laser retinopexy

Let me start by saying it is amazing what they can do with lasers these days, including shooting them into your eyes on purpose to fix things, and if this has anything to do with the work that Waterloo’s Dr. Donna Strickland did to earn the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics, then I will take a bold stand in favour of it.

the word of the day is ‘retinopexy’

So … a few months ago I had a Bilateral (both eyes) Laser (Light Amplification Something Something Radiation) Retinopexy (treatment for a detached or torn retina.) and today I had a followup check

This is a picture of one of my (two) eyes earlier today. Doesn’t it look great? Especially with the pupil all dilated like that?


(Incidentally if anybody ever asks you “Have your eyes ever been checked?” you should say “No, they’ve always been brown.” Trust me. Nobody in the eye care business has ever heard this or any other joke.)

Here’s what you can’t see. At the back of the eye, your retina is attached to what we lay people would call “the back part of your eye”. (The doctor described the anatomy of the eye to me in technical terms: “Picture a basketball filled with a water balloon.” ) For a while it was coming apart, but now, my retina (water balloon) part is still attached to the back (basketball) part, thanks to the awesome power of LASERS.

wait, back up

Here’s what happened.

Last spring while sailing on one of them cruise ships in the middle of the Atlantic, it occurred to me that my right eye was bothering me, especially when looking at bright objects like, for instance, “the Atlantic.” Blurry, seeing lots of “floaters”. Had noticed it for months, I thought, like an idiot, I was just “tired” and attempted the home remedy of “rubbing my eyes”.

At the urging of my cruisemates because this was quite the topic of dinner conversation for several nights during which time everyone discussed their theories of what it could be along with a list of possibly similar problems that had happened to them, I made an appointment to see my optometrist – another fine Waterloo person incidentally – for when we got back, and she took a look-see and announced, “Hmmm. Good thing you came in. You’re right, something is wrong. I’m referring you to a specialist.”

the specialist

Off we went to the fine ophthalmology clinic at St. Mike’s. After a round of incredibly powerful eye drops, the doctor did an exam – a procedure since repeated several times, and I will never get used to this – where he basically presses his big eye examining headset thing RIGHT ONTO YOUR EYE and shines a light with approximately the power of the sun into it, instructing you to look left, left and up, up, up and right, right, and I’ll say that it’s not painful but it is just incredibly annoying and you naturally want to shut your eyes, but they (the doctors) would rather you didn’t do that, and you just want it to be OVER, and eventually it is.

“Hmmm.” the doctor said. “Now let’s look at your other eye.”

But wait! The problem is in my right eye! My left eye is fine.

“Let’s look anyway.”

Well, OK, knock yourself out, I guess, but you’re wasting your time looking in the other eye except maybe for reference but … what’s that?

So, surprise! I had two torn retinas.

Visions of complicated processes had been racing through my head; I had been researching things on Google and discovered there was a surgical process that involved doing something to your eye that required you to lie face down for several weeks of recovery. Well wouldn’t that be fun. I could put my laptop on the floor, I could get one of those massage table things so you can stare straight down … You know what, not only might it get me out of travelling to a meeting I didn’t want to do, but there would be great comedy potential in this. I can make this work.

I assume I come back for some complicated surgical thing in a few weeks, then right?

“No, we’re not doing that – we’ll fix it today. Go wait outside for a bit.”

the immediate procedure

30 minutes later I was lying on my back in a dark room, with my eyes numbed by various magic drops, and the doctor performed a Laser Retinopexy in each eye – a procedure where he wears a head-mounted laser thing that I never really did get a good look at it, and leans right in on your eye and shoots lasers at the retina, which if I’m understanding this right, deliberately creates some scar tissue at the back of your eye to hold the retina in place.

During this procedure, you feel tremendous annoyance and desire for it to be over, but not really any pain; you DO see an incredible imaginary purple fireworks show as the laser does its thing.

Afterwards, thank goodness I had Cathy with me to drive as I had no interest in looking at any bright light sources, such as “outside.”

the aftermath

I’ve now returned a few times for followup checks. Everything seems to be fine. My vision isn’t getting better – this is nothing like the procedure they do to correct your eyesight; in this case they’re shooting a laser at a totally different part of your eye. But it’s not getting any worse either. Back to the optometrist for a new prescription and some new glasses – horribly overpriced, due to an eyeglasses cartel you probably know nothing about – but things are better.

I’ve since learned quite a few of my friends and neighbours have undergone something similar. Isn’t science amazing? It makes getting old tolerable.

Many thanks to Dr. Muni and Dr. Paterson, and my cruisemates for urging me to do something.

what did this all cost?

Nothing. Other than parking. Thank you, Ontario health care system.


One Reply to “bilateral laser retinopexy”

  1. Ooh, ooh! I had a laser procedure this past November. Mine was to blast apart a kidney stone—one of many that suddenly appeared out of nowhere. (That’s not entirely true. They appeared out of both my kidneys.)

    How did this differ from your procedure? First, unlike your doctor’s external instruments, my doctors had to use a ureteroscope.
    Second, I’m still paying for this procedure.

    Glad your eyes are doing well!

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