I have a secret. Technically, I’m considered legally blind. I’m a legally blind photographer. And by “technically,” I mean that most health care institutions and government agencies consider “legal blindness” as any visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in a person’s best-seeing eye. 20/20 is considered perfect vision: meaning something 20 feet away from a person looks like it’s 20 feet away to that person; where 20/200 means that something 20 feet away looks more like it’s 200 feet away to that person. With my nearsighted eyes (“myopic” in eye doctor terms), I think I’m somewhere around 20/300 or so.
With my contacts and glasses I can see perfectly fine, of course. But in the eyes of the law, I’m legally blind and my driver’s license says I have to be wearing corrective lenses to drive. The ONE time I was pulled over for a moving violation (because I’m an otherwise good, law-abiding citizen who just happened to be talking on her phone while driving through a construction zone), the police officer asked if I was wearing my contacts. I said something along the lines of, “buddy, if I wasn’t wearing them, I wouldn’t be able to see the steering wheel, let alone the road.” He glared at me, unimpressed. “Yes, sir.” I said, “yes, I’m wearing my contacts. You can give me that ticket now.”
Now because my eyes are so myopic, I could be prone to other visual difficulties as time goes by, such as glaucoma or retinal tear and detachment. So I make sure I have my vision checked by a regular optometrist every year to keep tabs on my prescription and have the doctor test for glaucoma and peek around for any possible problems. Last year, the optometrist said she saw some spotting on my retina and recommended I see a retina specialist.
Of course, I have a tendency to get a bit on edge when anyone in a lab coat says something with a slightly concerned look on their face, so I think I left her office screaming something along the lines of “OH MAN I’M SCREWED I’M GOING TO GO BLIND AND THEN I WON’T BE ABLE TO MAKE MY LIVING AS A PHOTOGRAPHER ANYMORE AND I’LL HAVE TO BE A PROFESSIONAL HARMONICA PLAYER WHICH WILL STILL BE COOL BUT NOT AS COOL AS BEING A PHOTOGRAPHER WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?!”
But I’m practical, so that only lasted a few minutes (okay, hours), and I quickly made an appointment with a retina specialist and got it checked out. All is well. I was told that the spotting is fairly common in myopic eyes and that I should just drop in every year to have photos taken of it and a quick exam to monitor it and make sure it stays put and doesn’t get worse. And the chances of it getting worse to the point of something serious are along the lines of less than 1%. I have a better chance at winning the lottery.
So my point to all this is that we should all get our eyes checked every year and do what our eye doctors tell us to do. Even if you don’t currently have glasses or contacts- it’s good to drop into the optometrist’s chair once in a while to make sure everything is status quo and stays that way. An exam is actually relatively cheap and covered by some medical insurance plans. And it’s quick and easy- I literally just go to Target Optical for a quick exam then pick up some eggs and soap and toothpaste and stuff on my way out the door.
Also- my other point to all this is that photos of the inside of eyeballs look cool. I asked my retina doctor for copies of the photos and she gladly burned me a CD of them. Seriously- look at the inside of my eyeball. Isn’t it awesome?