So many symptoms of Parkinson’s are similar to the aches and pains that come with aging. Sometimes it is difficult to determine what may be the cause of a new symptom. So when I started noticing that my depth perception was off a couple of years ago, I blamed it on PD. Those haloes that started to appear around street lights at night – PD. And the moon began to bloom, surrounded by what appeared to be petals – PD. After all, Parkinson’s can cause vision problems such as dry eyes, which I had,
and blurry or double vision. The blink reflex can be slowed down, leading to less blinking and dry eyes. One of the first things one neurologist said to me is that when I entered his office “he saw it in my eyes”, when I asked why, he said that I did not blink enough.
So let’s backtrack to 20 years ago. I was fortunate enough to have Lasik surgery to correct my vision. I had been wearing glasses since I was 10, contact lenses since I was 13. Imagine waking up the morning after surgery and being able to see the alarm clock for the first time in almost 40 years without glasses. Lasik surgery changed my life and my vision was stable for many years. So when pesky symptoms such as dry eyes started to become annoying, I assumed I could blame it on Parkinson’s.
Then I started having other problems. My depth perception seemed off at times. And for some reason, I no longer needed to use reading glasses. I liked that, but had no idea why this changed. About 1 1/2 years ago I went to get my eyes checked to find out what was going on. My optometrist noticed a cataract forming in my left eye, which accounted for the depth perception problems. And because my vision was different in each eye, reading became easier. So I was wrong. This was not a PD issue. It was an aging problem. Everyone eventually developes cataracts, which cloud the lens in your cornea, often distorting everything you see around you. This accounted for the haloes I was seeing instead of stoplights, and for the flowery moon.
Within 1 1/2 years, cataracts in both eyes progressed faster than we both expected, making night driving almost impossible, even with glasses. And I kept forgetting to put on my glasses. After 20 years of not wearing them, I could not get used to wearing glasses again, so I often took them off and then forgot where I put them (many times they were on top of my head). Kind of like walking into a room and forgetting why you came there.
So to make a long story short, after 1 1/2 years and 3 eyeglass prescription changes later, my optometrist decided that it was time to get rid of the cataracts. While I was having trouble seeing out, he was having trouble seeing into my eyes. He then referred me to the same eye surgeon who had done my Lasik surgery. The interesting thing about Cataract surgery is that it is mandated by Medicare that you must have only one eye done at a time, with a minimum of two weeks in between. Which means being sedated lightly (not totally asleep) by an anesthesiologist twice within a few weeks. You need to be somewhat awake but relaxed during the first part of the procedure, so that you can watch the psychedelic light show going on in your eye.
In the last few weeks there have been some concerns raised in the Parkinsons community about anesthesia and PD. All I can tell you is that I had no problems with having anesthesia. If you are considering any surgery and have questions about this, I would suggest that you speak to your Movement Disorders Specialist or Neurologist about the pros and cons of having anesthesia with PD.
As for my eyes, I can see again! And now I can turn those fun purple prescription glasses into fun purple sunglasses.