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Contact lenses and glasses — both!

I thought I would increase the number of eyeglasses I own from three to four, but it turns out that I need to wear a contact lens from morning to night, plus computer or reading glasses when I need them.
I’ve been feeling fine since the cataract surgery, but having surgery to only one eye has resulted in a slightly annoying condition. While the vision in my left eye is 20/20, the vision in right eye is about -6. To make things more complicated, I was told by the intern that my left eye had been about -6, and the surgeons put in a lens with a correction factor of 8. This overcorrection complicates reading and working on the computer, because the left eye is bad on short vision, and I’m totally myopic in the right eye. Trying to wear my old glasses with the left lens popped out doesn’t work, because the images from left and right eyes don’t line up. The interim solution has been to wear my right contact lens — which I normally used to wear about 8 to 10 hours per day — now from the time I get up until the time I go to bed, and also wear drug store reading glasses (strength +2) to get by on the computer and reading.

So, I was really looking forward to today’s appointments. First, I had the opthamologist appointment this morning. This was one of the those “wait two hours for a 5 minute appointment” stories. My eye has healed well, and I haven’t any any infections, so the Dr. Squires congratulated me and showed me the door. (He said that I could come back in one year for a checkup, but didn’t seem all that motivated to say that. He seemed to prefer that I come back when my right eye needs a surgery — which will probably be in 20 to 30 years!)

Diana had told me that on her last visit to an opthamologist, the doctor said that a patient may be better off at with an optometrist for getting eyeglass prescriptions, because an optometrist has better equipment and fits lenses all of the time. Thus, I had scheduled an afternoon appointment with Dr. Eddie Chow. Dr. Chow is a family institution, since he fitted me with my first contact lenses around age 17. (He also fitted my sister Jeanne and brother Ben). He’s also the one who prescribed ortho-k (i.e. wearing hard contact lenses while sleeping) for Adam.

For the past few year, I’ve had three pairs of eyeglasses: one for long vision (e.g. driving), one for reading, and one for computer work (i.e. intermediate distances, with Zeiss multifocal lenses so that I can look at some paper documents without changing glasses). Diana and I stopped by Superb Optical on Friday night to look at a fourth set of frames. I thought that I would change the left lens in the three old eyeglasses for when I’m not wearing the contact lens, and would then need new frames for working on the computer when I am wearing the contact lens.

I was surprised today when Dr. Chow said that computer and reading eyeglasses could only be fitted above my wearing the contact lens in my right eye. When the difference between two eyes is so wide, glasses won’t work. (I guess I might have suspected this, from popping out the left lens from my old glasses!) The other unattractive options are:

  • get a contact lens for the left eye — correcting the eye that just had surgery(!) with a multifocal prescription;
  • get LASIK on the right eye to fix the myopia — uggh!; or
  • have a cataract surgery on the right eye — which definitely isn’t covered by provincial health care, and is purely elective, because I really don’t need it — at least for a few decades!

I’m not used to wearing contact lenses from waking up to going to sleep, so my first response was denial. Dr. Chow wrote me up a prescription for multifocal eyeglasses (both for computer work and reading), and told me that I’d have to figure this out for myself.

I went out front to Superb Optical, and immediately saw Edmond, the optician. (He’s another institution!) I asked how long it would take for the multifocal lens, and he said that it would take a week to get one from Zeiss. As an alternative, he suggested that I have separate eyeglasses for computer/intermediate work, and for reading. These lenses would then be all single-vision, and he could make them up while I waited. One consideration was that single vision lenses are relatively cheap, so it’s more practical to try this way first, and then order the multifocal lens in the future if I really felt I need it. I gave him the two newer eyeglass frames that I already had, and he put the new lenses in. It was $50 for four lenses, which seems cheap compared to the history of eyeglasses I’ve had in the past.

While I was having this discussion with Edmond, Dr. Chow walked by, and insisted that I really should have the multifocal lens! (I know that he uses them himself, because he uses optical equipment while seeing patients, and then has to read and write on paper). Edmond says that the optometrist doesn’t always know the best way. I’m usually all intermediate distance — 8 to 10 hours per day on a computer — or all reading — checking the newspaper in the morning, and then maybe studying some academic texts later. I’m picky about my focus — I think that I’ve spent too many years in photography! — so I’ve opted for two pairs of eyeglasses. This is ironically better than my past 3 years carrying around three pairs of eyeglasses!

There is some good news about my condition. I’ve been wearing hard (gas-permeable) contact lenses for 30 years, so in the grand scheme of changes, my having one in my right eye isn’t such a big deal. Dr. Chow said that he has older patients that would benefit by doing as I am, but they can’t get used to wearing a contact lens, and things don’t work out. For me, I can’t warm up to the idea of elective eye surgery, so the single contact lens is the answer. I wonder if I’m going to have issues when my eyes water up in hayfever season, though ….

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