The Odd Thing about My Old Eyes

Can vision problems reverse themselves with age?

I’ve been nearsighted for most of my life. I began wearing glasses in the fifth grade and switched to contact lenses nearly full time when I was in college.

Over the years, my vision has gotten progressively worse. Each eye exam resulted in a slightly stronger prescription. I was lucky, though. Even though my natural far vision is bad, it’s very correctable. The contact lenses I’ve been wearing for at least 20 years — Acuvue disposable daily lenses — fit me like they were made for my eyes’ size and shape and bring my vision to 20/20 or better.

My near vision, on the other hand, is amazingly good. With glasses and contacts off, I can see nearly microscopic detail of things within 4-5 inches of my face. I can even read the micro text on $100 bills.

Of course, with contacts on, that close vision disappears. And as my far vision prescription got stronger and stronger, my close vision with contacts on got worse and worse.

At first, I combatted the close vision problem by letting my stronger eye do distance and my weaker eye do close vision. The ophthalmologist did this by prescribing a strong lens for my right eye and a much weaker lens for my left one. This worked pretty well, at least for a while. But then I realized that what it was really doing was making both my far vision and near vision less than satisfactory. So I went with contacts for good far vision in both eyes and began using reading glasses for close vision when my contacts were in. My back up eyeglasses were progressive lens bifocals.

Last year, my contact lens prescription was -6.50/-7.00 (right/left). My understanding is that that’s the equivalent to 20/650 and 20/700. Again, with the lenses in, my vision was about 20/20.

This year, however, I began having trouble with my vision. It started in the autumn when allergy (?) issues made it impossible to wear my contacts for more than a day or two. My eyes were itchy and teary. I wore my glasses quite often. I could see okay through them, but not great.

Then I started my drive south for the winter. I was wearing my contacts again and should have been seeing great. But I wasn’t. Everything in the distance was a bit blurry. I was having trouble reading signs. Objects in the distance on the side of the road that I thought were shrubs turned out to be cows. Oops.

What really confused me, though, is that when I wore my sunglasses and looked through the reading lenses at the bottom of the glasses, I could see distance better. That wasn’t right. I should see distance worse. Sure enough, when I put my readers on, I could see distance better than without them.

Eye Prescription
My current eye prescription shows a remarkable improvement in my vision.

So when I got to Arizona, I made an appointment at the same eye center I’d visited the year before, which is the same one I’d used when I lived in Arizona. After the usual eye health check up, I told the doctor what I’d noticed. He didn’t seem terribly surprised. We went through the usual exercise with the machine and eye chart to figure out what my prescription should be. The result: -5.50/-5.75.

My far vision had greatly improved over the past year.

He fetched some sample lenses and I popped in a pair. It was amazing. I could see perfectly again.

But what was even more amazing was that my close vision was also somewhat improved. Although I’d still need readers for small print, I could see good enough for most reading in good light. The doctor confirmed this: instead of +2.50 for readers, I could now use +2.00 readers.

I left the doctor’s office looking around me like a blind person who has just been given sight. I was drinking in everything I saw. The detail amazed me.

Needless to say, it really made my day.

The question both the doctor and I have is why my vision might have improved. He says that vision is often tied in with blood sugar levels and asked if I’d had any blood work done lately. I told him I had, about a month before, and that the doctor had given me a clean bill of health. He said that high sugar levels usually cause vision to get worse, not better. So now I’m wondering if I had high sugar levels last year when tested and they’d come back down gradually since then.

But I have to admit that I honestly don’t care. As long as I can see as clearly as I do now, I’m happy.

On Saturday, I treated myself to a new pair of good quality readers. On Sunday, I ordered two new pairs of bifocals, one of which includes snap-on sunglass lenses. For those interested in saving money on glasses, do check out Zenni Optical; I ordered two pairs of glasses for 1/4 of the price of one pair at Walmart Vision Center. You can’t beat that.

Glasses Order
My eyeglasses order. I decided to treat myself to two pairs: one just for indoors and the other for outdoors/flying. The pair with the snap-on sunglasses is a reorder with my new prescription. For some reason, they automatically applied a 10% discount so even with priority shipping, my order was less than $130.

7 thoughts on “The Odd Thing about My Old Eyes

  1. As you know, Maria, I had the same thing happen to me last year. I went from -7.50 to -6 in both eyes in about a year’s time but the reason for me was changing to a different type of contact lens that lets in more oxygen to the eye, lessening inflammation, and thus decreasing my prescription. Since you never changed the type of lens you were wearing, I find it fascinating that your eyes improved so much. Whatever you were doing, keep up the good work!

    • I know. I talked to the doctor about your lenses last year and he seemed doubtful. I just figured he didn’t know. And because I’ve had ill-fitting lenses before and my current lenses fit so well, I didn’t want to take a chance on changing.

      I don’t know what I’ve done differently — other than maybe to wear my glasses a bit more often. That’s why I ordered two new pairs. I’m thinking that if I like my glasses better, I might wear them more. We’ll see. I really do like wearing contacts.

  2. My wife has reported similar changes. Having been short sighted all her life she can now read the paper without glasses. I still have good distance vision but now need glasses to read.
    Looking at the Internet tells me this is not unusual in middle age. I don’t know anything about optometry but the explanations most often focus on (sorry) changes in the structure of the lens as it hardens with age. The nucleus is last to harden as accommodation lessens, apparently. Long haul pilots flying at altitude often report marked visual changes in late middle age. I believe this is regarded as an occupational risk of the higher exposure to cosmic radiation. But that would not apply to you, and anyway, you are reporting a beneficial change.

    However, you have spent much time in the very bright natural light of Arizona and the other cloudless states.
    The English author T.H.Huxley was nearly blind but taught himself to ‘see again’ in Arizona.
    He wrote ‘The Doors of Perception’ which inspired ‘The Doors’ (band) many years later.

    • Part of me is curious about the change, but a much bigger part of me is just grateful and hopeful that the improvement will remain — or get even better.

    • Correction to above. I’m muddling my Huxley’s.
      ‘The Doors of Perception’ (which advocates the use of mescaline) was written by Aldous Huxley, not T.H. Huxley.
      T.H. Huxley was Aldous’s grandad, the Victorian scientist and supporter of Charles Darwin who debated the theory of evolution with a bishop.

  3. Zenni Optical is a godsend for people who have kids with glasses. For the cost of one pair purchased at the doctors office (yet virtually always made somewhere else) you can buy three or four pairs from Zenni. I’m probably not alone as a parent in my frustration at how a kid who can always seem to remember every mistake dad makes can’t seem to ever recall where he left his last set of glasses.

    I’m a proponent of buying locally when it’s possible, and when it means you’re not getting ripped off. The prescription eyewear business has turned into a giant money machine owned increasingly by a single company, Luxottica, based out of Italy. They’ve bought up most of the U.S. chain stores that sell eye glasses and their markup is criminal. Making quality glasses isn’t rocket science, they shouldn’t be charging high-tech prices for a product that’s been well understood for a century.

    • I agree 100% with everything you’ve said here. I’d love to buy locally, but I simply can’t justify over $400 for a pair of glasses that I might wear 20-30 times a year. Zenni makes it possible to buy a pair of glasses and a spare — I like being able to keep a spare pair on the helicopter — for less than one pair would cost. If I could do that by buying locally, I certainly would.

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