"I Have a What in My Eye?"

School holidays are prime times for teachers to make appointments. I can’t remember a break in the last 25 years when I haven’t had one doctor’s visit or another.

Skin cancer and our eyes

With a history of skin cancer, check-ups with my dermatologist are usually first on the list followed by the dentist and annual physicals. Moving toward my 50's at what feels like lightning speed, I am beginning to realize that I should really do better with visits to the optometrist. I do go, just not as regularly as I should. Neglecting my eyes, though, is something I just may have a history of doing.

“Have you noticed any changes since your last visit?”

As it turns out, I was a little over two years overdue for an eye exam, but I could feel it even if I didn’t check a calendar. I am well aware that my eyes need to be checked regularly, especially with my history of melanoma. Seeing the eye doctor is one of those things I tend to associate with getting older, and I just haven’t done as good a job with it as I should, which is my fault entirely and not something of which I am proud.

I didn't expect this

I knew my vision was getting worse; it’s bound to happen. After all, I would not be the first female in my family to have vision issues by middle age. I was, however, pretty angry with myself when my doctor pointed out the early signs of a condition for which I might have helped pave the way.

“I see a little clouding…”

During the part of the exam in which he screens me for cancer, he noticed some clouding. That was scary enough to hear, but his next comment was what frustrated me most. He told me he saw indications of a pinguecula. This tiny growth is in the outside corner of my eye and looks a little cloudy, but not the same as a cataract. A pinguecula can cause vision issues, but is, for the most part, an irritation that can be relieved with over-the-counter treatments.1

“When you order glasses, you need to request UV coating.”

I won’t even pretend that I had heard of a pinguecula before; it was a completely foreign term to me. When my doctor explained what causes it, well, I had one of those aha moments. Chances are fairly high that I had expedited this process on my own. You see, pingueculas develop as a result of exposure to the elements: wind, dust, and yep, ultraviolet light.2

Breaking the habit

Some 15 years ago, I broke my tanning habits but not after spending about 20 years avoiding any and all sun protection. Fifteen of those years I spent using tanning beds, and I faithfully passed up all opportunities and warnings to use goggles. So, here I am.

I can see clearly now

The afternoon I left the optometrist, I ordered a new pair of glasses and did something I hadn’t before: I added the UV coating to my everyday glasses. No more thinking that UV protection is only for sunglasses. Moreover, no more waiting two years for an eye exam. There’s so much to think about when it comes to protecting ourselves from the sun’s rays–no more excuses though.

Had you heard of pingueculas before?

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