I'll always remember the day I got my first pair of contact lenses. At age 11, I had already been very nearsighted for a long time. I stood in front of the full-length mirror at the eye doctor's office and stared in wonder.
"Why, I'm.pretty!" I exclaimed, having not seen my face without the thick lenses and plastic frames of my eyeglasses since I was seven. And that was the beginning of my love affair with contact lenses.
Over 30 years later, I am still wearing contact lenses, although the lenses I wear now are disposable; softer, more porous and infinitely more comfortable than the hard plastic circles I wore back then. I've lost more contacts than I can count, but over the long haul, my run with contact lenses has been so successful that I've held back from the more costly and intrusive Lasik surgery.
Even as glasses became a fashion accessory, with technology able to shave thick lenses into wafer-thin ones, I counted on my contact lenses. They did not fog up in humid weather or slide up and down my sweaty face when I was running, like glasses will.
But something happened on my way to my mid-forties, an evil that strikes forty something folks and sends them whining to the wholesale club for the three-pack of reading glasses: I could not read the fine print.
Were manufacturers making their fine print smaller? I had to squint to read the cooking instructions on the back of the Brownie mix and the carbohydrate content on just about any other package. In grocery stores, I asked customers passing by to decipher the print for me. In the kitchen, I asked my children to read me the cooking directions.
Doc Mallonee, my eye doctor, told me that this was typical for forty to fifty-year-old eyes. Pick up a pair of reading glasses at the drugstore, he said. I invested in the afore-mentioned three-pack of reading glasses at the wholesale club.
Why do I need reading glasses to see up close, when all along my problem had been seeing things far away (nearsightedness)? According to eye advisor Donna Hughes, the muscles in our eyes adjust the thickness of the crystalline lens that focuses the eye as we shift from near to far. As our eyes get older, the lens is not as supple and the muscles get weaker, so we can't focus up close.
Soon there was a pair of reading glasses in my car, one on my desk, and one in the kitchen and several floating throughout the house. Still, there were things that I could not see, like the hymnal at church. If I'd had glasses on, I could have taken them off and held the book close to my face to read and sing, but with contacts on, I was out of luck. I would put my reading glasses on to look down so I could read, then slip them off to look up at the minister so I didn't get dizzy.
I had heard about monovision, where the contact lens in your dominant eye is adjusted to use that eye for distance and the contact lens in the other eye is changed in power to focus on reading close up. On my annual eye check-up last week, I asked about it. The technician consulted my chart, determined my dominant eye, and brought in varying strengths of disposable lenses to try. The result was astounding. I walked out of the eye doctor's office being able to both read the fine print and see the big picture, things that help anyone get along better in life.
I feel like a child again, correcting my blurry vision for the first time. Suddenly, things are clearer; even things I didn't realize were blurred in the first place. Is that dog hair in the corner of my living room? Is that a pimple on my chin?
You! You can't hide from me.I can see clearly now!
Sue-Ellen Sanders writes about family issues every week. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org