Yesterday, I took the office staff of my Optometry practice in Hercules to my favorite Chinese restaurant, Dragon Terrace, also in Hercules, CA. Most of my staff are locals, and they were frequent flyers at Dragon Terrace as well. We all agreed that when we dine in out-of-town Chinese restaurants, the food just doesnt taste the same. And dont even ask about what we Bay Area folks think about Chinese food when we travel OUT of the Bay Area. Anyway, we made a conscious effort to recognize how tremendously lucky we were to have Dragon Terrace in our backyard. Were comfortable there. Eric and the staff are like family. So, no complacency there.

Ask any eye care professional, and they will recommend annual eye exams. Most people fortunate enough to have vision insurance have annual exam coverage. Yet the average person comes in every 2.5 3 years for routine eye care. So, Im starting a series to tell you some clinical stories true stories about patients who made the unfortunate mistake of becoming complacent about their vision.

JC was an energetic, pleasant 22 year old who just landed a great job doing lab work in a local teaching hospital. It was Labor Day Saturday, and she came in because she felt that her left, 2-week disposable contact lens was dirty, old and blurring her vision. I asked her when she first noticed this blurriness, and she surprised me with, since last July. July?! JC didnt seek care for two months because she was waiting for her vision plan benefits to kick in. Complacency due to economic conditions. Oh no.

I tried as hard as I could to suppress a hard gulp and dove head first into the eye exam hoping for the best for JC.

She read the chart with her right eye . . . 20/25. Not bad. Then she covered the right eye and read with her left eye . . . 20/200. Bad. If its the contact lens, then its going to be the dirtiest lens Ive ever seen, I thought. Oh yes, Ive seen some really pathetic lenses way past their last leg. So, I looked at it. It was relatively clean. Not good.

No matter what lenses I put in front of her left eye, her vision did not improve from 20/200. Immediately, I grabbed a hand-heldophthalmoscope to look into her left eye. Im not sure if I gulped, but I had terrible news for JC. She had a very large retinal detachment in her left eye, and I made an immediate referral to a retinal specialist on call at her teaching hospital.

When retinal tissue is detached long enough, it is separated from its underlying blood supply and necroses or dies. Unfortunately for JC, her vision loss was permanent. Fortunately, she had two eyes, and saw well with her right eye. However, she could no longer wear contacts as contacts increased risk for infection. She now has to do everything in her power to protect her better eye.

The moral to this story is . . . dont be complacent about blurry vision. Have it checked out as soon as possible. If youre worried about cost, have it evaluated anyway. Most medical professionals are compassionate and willing to work something out. JC made a dangerous assumption that her contact lens was to blame. Our visual system is wonderfully complex. It takes at least 8 years to become a doctor of optometry, and continuing education never ends. If you need professional advice . . . , go to a professional.

If you looking for an Optometrist in Hercules or an Optometrist in Pinole don’t hesitate to Optometry By The Bay!

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