EYE—A WORLD OF WONDER
By Barbara Younger
What do you know about your eye? Perhaps a great deal. Perhaps you are a physician or a scientist or a technician who has always been fascinated by the workings of the human eye. More likely you are someone who thinks of your eye as a squishy place that you hardly think about unless you are applying mascara, purchasing glasses or rubbing furiously at the itch of pollen. I was one of the latter until some years ago when I developed glaucoma. That was when I first learned that the infrastructure of the eye is built upon a complicated water works, apart from tears. I learned that pressure is controlled by a drainage system called the trabecular meshwork (Wikipedia). The adequate flow of the liquid which makes up the eye—called the aqueous humor (Wikipedia) controls the pressure. And pressure is the issue in glaucoma. If the pressure is too high because the aqueous humor is not drained well enough or if the pressure is too low because the liquid is drained too fast, damage to the optic nerve can occur. This can cause blindness since the optic nerve is the major source of image delivery to the visual center. If the nerve delivers the image, the brain takes all the visual information from the eye and sorts it out for us.
As long as the optic nerve is intact and the retina, including its center, the macular, is not damaged and the lens is clear and the cornea, at the very front of the eye, permits the light to enter the so-called camera-like apparatus of the eye, you will see. Note the following (diagram from creative common blog--wikipedia):
So you can understand that glaucoma, though a serious condition, is not the only threat to vision.
Especially as we age, macular degeneration can occur. In that case, the center of the retina is compromised and vision can be lost.
Retinal folds can also create distorted vision. These can usually be repaired.
And the cornea is in a precarious position at the very entrance to the eye. If diseased, it can compromise good vision.
For people, with glaucoma, and for people who are older, like me, any number of issues can arise and cause impaired vision. In my case, the vision in my right eye began to become cloudy. I was found to be a good candidate for a cornea transplant.
Remember hearing about Eye Banks? I recall learning about them 65 years ago when I got my first driver’s license and was encouraged to be a donor. I am a donor, but I never dwelled upon a time when I would ever be in a position to actually donate my eyes. But now I was in a place where I was going to be a recipient!
In most cornea transplants, today, the entire donor’s cornea is seldom transplanted to the recipient’s eye. Rather, in the transplant procedure, called a DSEK (Descemet’s Stripping Endothelial Kerotoplasty) the Descemet Membrane, at the back of the patient’s cornea, is removed and replaced with endothelial cells of a donor cornea, leaving the front of the cornea virtually untouched. The surgeon skillfully holds this new tissue in place with an air bubble, water and a contact lens. The air dissolves and the clear contact lens remains on to serve as a “bandaide” for the first week or two after surgery. Now this is a very simplified version of a complicated surgery. You can find an on-line description and even watch the surgery, if you choose. I shall only go so far as to say:
I went into surgery with very little vision in my right eye. All the disclaimers were recited to me regarding the risk of infection, rejection, the way that glaucoma can negatively affect a successful transplant—
enough to make me decline the first operation before the date of surgery. But a few months later I went through with it and today, three weeks later, my right eye had excellent vision, and is still continuing to heal. With a corrected lens in my eye glasses, I expect to have at least 20/30 vision.
Barbara Younger, a retired Attorney and Mediator thinks of herself now as a Matriarch. With her husband, they are touchstones for the young generations of their family. Yet she remains an individual as she continues to study and develop her yoga practice and her newest work as a Yoga Therapist.