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Friday, November 2, 2012

The Mysterious Cataract. Aricept? Namenda?

It has been almost exactly one year since it happened. I don't know why I haven't written about it sooner except maybe that I didn't want to jinx myself, or I might have been waiting to see if it was going to reoccur. What am I talking about? My cataract.
My cataract covered about 30% of the lower center/left of my lens.

Last October I started to have some blurred vision in my left eye. It got suddenly worse over the course of several days until during daylight it looked as if someone had stuck semi-transparent tape on my glasses lens. At night I had a huge ring of star-like lines or rays coming out of any light source such as car headlights. I was pretty much blind in my left eye.

It happened so suddenly that my first thought was that I had a detached retina. I called my Ophthalmologist, and they wanted to see me right away. They thought the same thing because of the severity of the impairment, and the suddenness of the onset.

I had a complete eye exam. My regular ophthalmologist was not available, but there are several at the clinic where I have been going for my regular eye exams ever since being diagnosed with diabetes about 12 years ago. My eyes were dilated until my pupils were the size of dinner plates, and I was given several different tests. The doctor described in detail exactly what he was seeing in my eye as his nurse dutifully took notes.  In one test they shined a light at my eye, and asked me to read a chart. I could not even see the chart! Anyways, it was good news - sorta. I was not going immediately blind from a detached retina. The bad news was that I had a large and very opaque cataract right in the center of the lens of my left eye.

I was told I was a good candidate for surgery, and to make an appointment with my regular doctor for a final exam, and to go over the surgical options to remove my cataract. About 2 weeks later I was examined by my regular ophthalmologist. The exam did not take quite as long, and he spent more time actually looking in my eye, and mapping the large opaque occlusion in the center of the lens of my left eye. He said it was about as bad as any he had seen, and that I was a good candidate for surgery. Since I could not see out of that eye, I elected to get the surgery as soon as possible.

Before I left that appointment, I had a date set for my surgery, and a date set for another appointment several days before my surgery to get some final measurements taken for the implant and stuff. There is a lot of good information on the Internet about cataract surgery, and I think I read it all before making my choices. My surgery was scheduled for the weekend right after Thanksgiving. My appointment for all the pre-surgery measurements and stuff was on the Monday right before Thanksgiving. I was just a little bit nervous about the whole idea, but I had a couple weeks to get used to it. Things were happening really fast, but the fact of the matter was that I could not see out of my left eye.

I had a date on Sunday with a lady I had been seeing for a couple of weeks. We went to a local BBQ place that is kind of a sports bar as well as a family restaurant. As usual the place was very busy. The food was good. We were seated at a table which allowed me to see a TV screen above the end of the bar, even though we were well into the dining room. The big screen was visable right over my date's shoulder.

It was so great when the Browns football game started. I could pretend to be listening, and look right at my date when she was talking, and still watch the game over her shoulder. It worked! I was a total cad, and loving it. She was having a great time telling me all about sewing, sewing machines, and AppleLumpkins, or something like that.  I was having a great time, and it was one of the very, very, very rare occasions when the Browns were winning! WooHoo!

Then I blew it! I said, "Hey! Honey! I can read the score on the TV over there." I was so surprised when I realized it, that I just blurted it out. In my head, and out my mouth. That is bvFTD all over.

Well, after some laughter, and teasing about watching the game over her shoulder, we really examined what I was seeing. The TV screen was not very large, maybe 42 inches, and was an easy 50 feet away. I squinted, and looked through only my left eye, and could still see it just fine. There was no blurry haze from the cataract.

I was a little disconcerted. I had this feeling like it couldn't be real. Cataracts do not go away by themselves. I kept checking it all day, and I could see just fine. That night driving home I checked again with oncoming headlights, and the huge ring of foggy rays that had blinded me at night had almost completely disappeared. That was Sunday night.

Monday morning, the very next day, was my appointment with the ophthalmologist to take measurements for the new lens to replace the one they were going to remove because of the cataract. I was a few minutes early for my appointment.

The nurse looked at me like I was crazy when I told her something had changed, and that if my vision was going to stay the way it was right then I did not need to have surgery. The doctor came in, and after I told him what had happened at the restaurant with the Browns game, he ordered another complete exam.

I could see! There was no sign of the huge cataract that had been blurring the very middle of my lens. They were throwing around words like, "Miracle!", and said cataracts do not just go away on their own. Especially not ones as severe as mine. Remember, 2 different ophthalmologists, and 2 technicians had all seen it, and measured it.

Surgery was canceled, and they said they wanted to see me back again if anything changed. Other than that, my eyes were fine, and I had very minor changes to my glasses prescription. I kinda got the impression that they wanted me out of there because I had caught them making some kind of mistake.

I do not think that was the case at all. The cataract was there, and I definitly could not see, when they first examined me. Then it was gone!

Did you know that Cataracts are listed as a side affect of Aricept? Did you know that Cataracts are listed as a side affect of Namenda?

I take the maximum recommended dosage of BOTH! Duh!

I continued to take both Namenda and Aricept for most of the past  year. There were a few weeks when I was between insurance coverage when I could not afford them, but my Neurologist helped me past the roughest times. I figured the cataract had come, and gone, and the potential benefits of slowing my progression was worth the risk.

Every case of bvFTD is different. Some people have different side affects than others, and each of us have our own unique and distorted ways of dealing with discomfort. I know of many people who try taking these drugs for a while, and then stop taking them because they just got tired of the side effects, and they "...really didn't see any difference."

"They didn't really see any difference."

 "THEY DIDN"T REALLY SEE ANY DIFFERENCE!!!!"

If you have bvFTD, and you are taking Namenda and Aricept for a year or more, and you, "REALLY DON"T SEE ANY DIFFERENCE!!!!"  DUH! Something is working, and you can bet it isn't your inherent good looks! Maybe it's the drugs, maybe not. Right now nobody knows for sure. The research goes both ways. That seems to say that they work for some, or under some conditions, but not for others. That is a big part of the reason I decided not to give up on my drug regimen. I still have side affects. Sometimes they can be debilitating, but they go away. They are the worst when I make any change in dosage, brand, or if I forget to take something. (Withdrawal? Oh! Yes!)

Something seems to be working, and other than some POM Juice every other week or so I can't afford to do much else. As long as I don't develop another cataract, I am continuing with both the Aricept and Namenda as long as my insurance will allow.

(Just as a side note, that same lady and I are still dating. That lady must have the patience of a Saint, but then I haven't tried to watch TV over her shoulder ever again either. I figure I was plenty lucky the last time.)

Some days are better than others, but at least I can see today ...when my vision is not too blurry from the Aricept. (Sigh!).






1 comment:

  1. I'm glad the cataract disappeared; both your father and brother had them.

    ReplyDelete