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Being Almost Blind

Being Almost Blind

Being Almost Blind – Some of you might have noticed that the updates to this blog have been a little sparse the past two weeks. There is however a good explanation for this. On Friday, October 2nd I woke up and noticed that I could no longer see properly. I saw everything around me, but when I looked directly at something (especially on a computer screen), all I saw was a white mist. The reality of my situation quickly began to sink in.

Being Almost Blind

I was aware that I had eye strain, a condition that is often associated with long hours of staring at computer screens. For this there is a simple remedy. What I was faced with however was a totally different kettle of fish. Earlier that week, I went to the optometrist because I was starting to see bright flashes and spinning cartwheels (as the ophthalmologist later explained to me). My optometrist ran a series of tests and diagnosed eye strain. He also noticed that I hardly blink when staring at a computer screen, something I need to condition myself not to do.

He did however prescribe a set of glasses for me to use when working, and I could feel the effects of wearing my glasses immediately. My eyes were relaxed and not as strained. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to me the wheels had already been set in motion for what would become the most frustrating two weeks of my life. The Friday that I lost the ability to see any text (especially black text against a white background)  made me consider my future seriously. I need to be able to write code. I don’t know how to do anything else (and I don’t want to either).

I experimented with different color themes in Visual Studio, I set the brightness of my monitors, I tried squinting, I removed all glare from my monitors…. nothing helped. No matter where I looked or at what I looked at, it was the same result. It was as if I was looking through a web of white threads. I could see text in my peripheral vision, but not when looking directly at it. The same was true when writing something down on paper. Neither the tip of my pen or the words I was writing were visible.

I went back to my optometrist on the Monday and he immediately referred me to an ophthalmologist for further tests. My sight had deteriorated to such an extent, that I could no longer see the second row of letters on the letter chart (I battled through the first row too). It was at this point that I became seriously worried.


An hour later I was sitting in a very comfortable chair while the ophthalmologist peered into my eyes with strange contraptions that looked more like medieval torture devices. After about 20 minutes of tests and lights and gadgets, he told me that my condition isn’t serious at all. It was however extremely frustrating. I had a vascular spasm which is brought on by a few factors. Some of these include stress and diet. The vascular spasm causes diminished blood circulation which is first evident in the eyes because they don’t get as much blood. This in turn triggered an ocular migraine of sorts. Ocular migraines are not painful, but warning signs are flashes, spinners and cartwheels of light in your vision.

The problem with this (as with regular migraines) is that once it’s triggered, there is little you can do to stop it. Once it hits, you need to ride it out. Prescription in hand for some extremely expensive meds, I set off on my road to recovery. The ocular migraine would slowly dissipate in the coming days (and it did too), which brings me back to this moment here.

Looking Back (Mind the Pun)

It is quite evident to me now that my sight is something I need to take care of better. Anyone that works in IT has to use the tools of the trade. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be conscious of the fact that without our sight, we are quite useless. Schedule yearly checkups at the optometrist. Take regular breaks and don’t get too wired in that you sit for hours on end staring at a computer monitor. There are many more tips to prevent eyestrain, the trick is for us to take the recommendations seriously.

Ironically enough (as a side note), the software my optometrist used (called Spectrum) to test my eyes was written by a very good friend of mine back in 2005. She started on that project and worked on it for a couple of years before handing it over and moving on. In fact, I think I have a couple of lines of code in Spectrum too.

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

Marcus Aurelius

Dirk Strauss
Dirk is a Software Developer and Microsoft MVP from South Africa. He loves all things Technology and is slightly addicted to Twitter and Jimi Hendrix. Apart from writing code, he also enjoys writing human readable articles. "I love sharing knowledge and connecting with people from around the world. It's the diversity that makes life so beautiful." Dirk feels very strongly that pizza is simply not complete without Tabasco, that you can never have too much garlic, and that cooking the perfect steak is an art he has yet to master.

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  • Joadi

    Vision problems can be scary. The minute you mentioned bright flashes & spinning cartwheels I wondered if it was a migraine. I have had similar and endured ‘missing visual fields’ on the odd occasion. Freaked me out a bit at first. Our sense of sight is something we tend to take for granted until there is a problem. Glad all is well now.

    • It was the scariest few weeks om my life. You’re right, we do take our vision for granted. What I was left with was about 3 weeks of diminished eyesight and 2 weeks of gradual improvement. So for 5 weeks, my eyesight was affected. Not a nice situation at all.