If what they say is true about the eyes being the mirror to the soul, then my soul must be tortured because my eyes are positively tortuous (April 6, 2012: Tortuosity and Dark Matter!).

Yes, it’s true.  My last visit to the opthamologist confirmed it.  My eyes are, indeed, tortuous – meaning my retinal vessels are, in layman’s terms, “all squiggly like”.  This could be indicative of a number of alarming medical conditions: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a lack of oxygen to the brain (which, quite frankly, would explain a lot). OR it could be genetic and perfectly normal (in 13.3% of cases.  I don’t like them odds).  Anyway, on the advice of my opthamologist, I followed up with my doctor who, after declaring my blood pressure perfectly normal, in turn referred me to an eye specialist – who I visited yesterday.

I arrived ten minutes early for my appointment in the unlikely event they were making good time and wanted to bump me up (I say unlikely but it’s never happened in my lifetime).  I took a seat in a surprisingly packed waiting room where I filled out one of those “First Time Visit” questionnaires (Do you do drugs?  You checked yes?  Great. You’ll be in Room 4 meeting with Officer O’Malley) and then passed the time listening to the muzak being piped through the speaker directly above my chair.  I’m not sure, but I think it might have been “Greatest Lute Hits”.

Finally, they called my name and I was ushered into a tiny room where I was informed I would be getting drops to “freeze my eyes”.  I imagined the thin liquid surface of my eyeballs crystallizing to twin cataract-like shields, cracking into intricate spiderweb fissures with a double flick of the assistant’s fingers.  “This may hurt a little,”she warned as she applied the drops.  Hurt?!  As it turned out – yes, a bit. I sat up and wiped the liquid from my eyes (and by liquid I mean the excess drops and not my actual tears because, of course, I don’t cry) at which point she produced this tiny pen-like instrument.  “Now I’m going to check your eye pressure,”she informed me.  “I’m going to tap your eyeball with this.”

“You are?”

“Don’t worry,”she said.  “Your eyes are frozen and you won’t feel anything.”

Do you realize how hard it is to keep your eye open will getting your eyeball poked?  Very hard.  Go ahead, try it.  Just give your iris a light tap with your pinky finger.  Try not to blink.

I blinked.  A lot.  So she ended up having to do both eyes twice. “How’s it looking?”I asked.

“You doctor will discuss the results with you,”she replied.

What did THAT mean?!

I was then instructed to peer through a machine, first one eye, then the other, and read a row of numbers and letters.  I was feeling fairly confident until I realized that, while my answers for the first two easy rows were the same for both eyes, my responses for the more challenging final two rows different significantly: 8?  No, B.  No, 8. Wait…it’s a Caduceus!

It was back to the waiting room for more lute music.  I was able to pass the time in fairly consistent anxiety, first doing a google search for “eye pressure test” on my cell phone which led me to a second google search for “glaucoma” which inevitably led me to a third search for “glaucoma treatments”.  It didn’t look good for your truly.  From what I could read – and given my sudden blurred vision and inability to focus, it wasn’t much – the pressure check was a test for glaucoma.  The fact that the assistant who performed the test was unwilling to reveal a normal reading (after all, if it was normal why wouldn’t you?) suggested I’d failed.  Now, the question was how serious the glaucoma and what kind of irreversible damage had already been done to my vision?  Also, what kind of treatment would I be looking at?  Had I caught it in time?  Would medication suffice? Or would I require laser or more invasive surgeries?

Another fifteen minutes wait before I was summoned into another room.  I was asked to peer into another machine and asked to focus on the picture of a distant hot air balloon that came in and out and back into focus, then asked to repeat some more lines – first the right eye, then the left eye.  Again, the answers didn’t match up.  I tried to joke around with this second assistant, but she’d have none of it.  She was either a highly unpleasant individual or, more than likely, had already heard the results of my eye pressure test and been stricken by an overwhelming sadness.

It was back to the waiting room for more of the  lute serenade, then my name was called again and I was directed to take a seat in a narrow hallway.  My chair was so low I felt like I’d been exiled to the kids’ section.  As I sat and waited, I vowed to make the most of my good seeing days.  I’d no longer put off reading those books I’d been meaning to get around to.  I’d accelerate my productivity and complete those half-finished scripts languishing on my laptop.  I’d get around to watching the last few seasons of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia!  I’d live life to the fullest!

The door in front of me swung open.  A patient left and my name was called.  I walked in and took a seat.  As the doctor shut the door, I braced myself.  Here it came.

“So, when did you first notice the toruosity?”she asked.

I told her it had been brought to my attention while I was in Toronto, then confirmed by a local opthamlogist just last month.

“There could be a number of explanations,”she said.

“High blood pressure,”I offered helpfully.

“Have you had your blood pressure checked recently?”

I told her I had.  My blood pressure was normal.

“Well, aside from high blood pressure, you could be looking at other possibilities.”

“Diabetes?”I suggested.

“Did you have a fasting blood test when you went in for your physical?”

I told her I had and, now that she mentioned it, I realized the doctor had never called me with the results.  Maybe no news is good news.

“Or it may mean they misplaced the results,”said Debbie Downer.  “You should follow up.”

I said I would.

“Okay then,”she said.  “My first concern would be blood pressure.”

“My blood pressure was fine,”I reaffirmed, suddenly struck by a sensation akin to tuning into an episode of your favorite series only to discover it’s a clip show.  “What else?”

“That’s it,”she said.

“What about the eye pressure test?”I asked.

“Your eye pressure’s fine.”

No glaucoma but my eyes are tortuous, that’s what this visit to the specialist revealed.  In other words, it reconfirmed what my local opthamologist had already confirmed what the opthamologist in Toronto had discovered.

P.S. I followed up with my doctor’s office and was told that they had received the results but the doctor hadn’t asked for a follow-up appointment.  This, she told me, usually signified the results came back normal.  Or, I thought, they were so bad that he assumed I’d passed away in the interim and what was the point.

36 thoughts on “May 24, 2012: My tortured soul. And eyes.

  1. Oh my, oh my, I was just going to bed, then decided to check in here. Now I’m laughing so I won’t fall asleep. Well told story. Thanks.

    Joe, this sounds like dry eye issues. Get some good quality tear replacement drops and use regularly. Next, get away from the tiny cell screens, only use larger screens. Limit your time in front of said screens as they will also dry your eyes.

    Have any of these doctors mentioned blocked tear ducts? It has happened to me. But then I am also hypertensive, be glad you are not. Blocked tear ducts is also a cause for dry eyes. Eyes need moist surroundings and if your body doesn’t produce enough moistness for them, they will burn, ache, lose focus when reading and just really hurt.

    Okay, not laughing now. Take good care of your eyes and feel better soon.
    Thanks for the chuckle… and good night.


  2. Not meaning to alarm you but I am showing sypmtoms of what my optometrist says is “normal pressure glaucoma”, meaning the eye pressure readings are normal but the glaucoma symptoms are starting to show. OD says there is a developing trend among the eye guys not to depend on eye pressure readings alone. I have to go back for a follow-up in June.

  3. You know they have books on tape now where you can listen to books. Also computers can now be accessed through your voice and can even respond back verbally. Seeing eye dogs are just great companions and really do a lot of important tasks. A great addition to your brood. just saying.

  4. Sounds like your eyes are good and I’m fairly confident you did not pass away in the interim. Maybe just too much stress from reading all those books, watching too much TV and videos, and working on the computer all day. The eye exam . . . welcome to my world. I have Glaucoma and must get my eyes checked about 4 times per year. My doctor checks my pressure himself (the pinpoint instrument touching your eye). No assistant does that test. They do all the other tests, eye chart test, field vision, eye xrays, and put in the dilation drops. I’ve had it since I was 39. Pretty young. Most of his patients are 80 to 103 (yes 103 is his oldest patient, who I saw once. Cute man who looked more like an 80 year old.)

    I recomend you rest your eyes more. Take more breaks during the day and play with the dogs, and Akemi. Relaaaaxx.

  5. Joe- Having gone through a HORRIBLE experience the past five years dealing with suddenly spiking blood pressure I try to get people to check their BP often. For YEARS I got normal BP readings. Every once in a while I felt more tired, or got a headache. I thought nothing of it. Then I went for an appointment for something completely unrelated. My BP happened to be SKY HIGH and the doctor informed me that he was not going to see me for what I went there that day, because my BP was dangerously high. Long story short, in the past three months I was hospitalized twice for a week each time because of my BP (which is finally under control). Get it checked. Buy a home machine and check it at different times. Doesnt hurt to be cautious and worst case is you waste a few minutes and 60 bucks on a machine. Best case is you discover that your rich diet which is most likely high in sodium is killing you and you have to make some minor adjustments- but what makes it best case is that you would have avoided a potential stroke. Take it from someone that is the one in a thousand person that had normal BP most of the time and the “ocassional” sudden spike. Oh, I had just had my annual physical a week before I went to this specialist and they told me my BP was just fine.

  6. Joe, my optometrist and /or his assistants perform those tests at my annual appointment. No tortuosity, as far as I know, but my eye Dr. sees early stages of cataracts. That’s no surprise, as both of my parents had cataract surgeries in their 70’s.

  7. 😆

    (Joey, I’m laughing at your tortuous saga, not YOU…I promise… 😉 )

    Also, about your tortuous vessels. I did a little research, and in every case it said that they can just be normal for some people. So maybe you’re just normal, Joe. Sure you can handle that? 😉


  8. While taking breaks from staring at a small video screen, laptop/desktop monitor for hours at a time is good to do. Using a laptop connected to a larger separate monitor is cool and most newer TV sets have a PC connection on the back to connect computers. Another good thing is to increase the size of the fonts so it is much easier to read words. 🙂

    The tiny screens of cell phones & other smaller sized devices might hurt users’ eyesight, all just my opinions though.

  9. Poor Joe. The whole drama seems to have played to your worst neuroses. Er, I mean, very reasonable concerns. Maybe we all have physical oddities that ‘are likely nothing’. Like that goiter I’ve been meaning to have drained.

    I’ve had eye pressure tests using puffs of air or weird lights, but never freezing+direct eyeball contact. Should we blame it on socialized medicine? 😉

  10. Remember Akemi’s advice?
    Take it easy, don’t karoshi!
    Be careful dude, or Akemi is going to borrow Lulu’s big stick to encourage you to listen to good advice.

  11. Have you had the back of your eyeballs photographed? Had mine done years ago. Looks like Mars! — So far, “physically” my eyes are fine, except for the part where I’m totally myoptic! The focus-muscles are seriously shot! Although my “field of vision” testing was 99.5%. Apparently, I through their whole “average” curve right off! – I might not be able to see the little lights clearly, but I can still SEE them out of the corner of my eyes…

    Have I mentioned the part about being “blind”…?

    Anyway, it was the DENTIST for me today! Thank The ANCIENTS for Dental Insurance!! …have another visit next week…

  12. HAHAHAH!

    Sorry Joe, I don’t mean to laugh, but I’ve been through basically everything you’ve just described on more than one occasions. I was blessed with a wonderful condition that meant my corneas were shaped like ice-cream cones (for lack of a better description). This meant two corneal transplants, and that involves having stitches in your eyes that stay there for a full year. Loads of fun.

    Anyway, because of that I’ve done all those wonderful tests – even the hot-air balloon focus test. Thing is, you didn’t get the worst one of these standard tests. You got a version of it – the pressure test where they prodded your eye whilst they are blissfully numb thanks to the aesthetic. The much, much worse version is the ‘sit in this chair and we’ll shoot you in the eye with a blast of high pressure air but we won’t tell you when we’re going to do it’ version. And then once they’ve done it to one eye, they do it to the other eye.

    So you sit there, your head in a little forehead/chin rest, constantly trying not to flinch away as your fail at anticipating when the blast of air will come. It doesn’t hurt, but it is the most unnatural feeling in the world – sitting there with your eye wide open, starring at a blinking light, knowing that any second now a blast of air will shoot into your eye. And you do this willingly!

    The aesthetic/eye-prod version is much preferred, believe me…


  13. Because I have eye problems in the family I have an eye test every year…at the moment I am fine just my eyes getting old! so have glasses for reading always a good idea so you don’t strain your eyes and make them worse.

    I have to have a pressure test but we use air which is blown as a quick burst into each eye…I hate this as I have to have it taken several times because I have sensitive eyes and blink! we don’t do the ballon thing anymore we did as a kid now we do a light test on each eye where you have to press a button with how many lights you see and follow a dot across a screen.

    Oh and yes supposed to wear them on the computer as well…mmmm ok so I am not 😛

    Kriss 🙂

  14. Dear Joe & Joe’s eyes

    *hugs without touching*

    Some Questions:

    1. Which one of your dogs would be best suited as a seeing eye dog?

    2. If it were genetic wouldn’t you have always had this problem? Wouldn’t your family have had this problem?

    3. Do you need me to type in bigger font size?

    Today is my birthday and I took the day off and spent with family and friends. I saw The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Charming movie, thoroughly recommend it – Trailer

    Lunch was lovely – had a barramundi fillet on a bed of veggies w/ this to die for scallops. Now I’m off to dinner – Chinese. Yay!!!

    Seriously though Joe, I hope they can sort out your eyes. Best wishes.

    Cheers, Chev

  15. Only you could make a worrying situation funny, but by the sounds of things those two assistants could be doing with personality transplants!

    Having said that, it could be just one of those things that can’t be explained. Dare I say it? Maybe you are logging too much time in front of a screen? I know writing is a compulsion, but perhaps you should give it a break for a while. And reading. If the condition eases off, you’ve got your answer.

  16. Joe – Some observations for you: Some serious and some funny. I hope you can tell them apart.

    One of the major drawbacks to current healthcare methodology is that some conditions are temporary and can only be detected if they are happening when a particular test is done. One example from personal experience is that while seeing a doctor weekly while rehabbing a back injury, my blood pressure was perfectly normal, until my 6th appointment when I had 1 large cup of coffee prior to my appointment. That time, my blood pressure registered in the “Holy crap! Get a tarp! This guy’s head might explode at any second!” range. Needless to say, I avoid caffeine now. The point being that just because something doesn’t show up in a test, it doesn’t mean that’s not the cause.

    You should probably brace yourself for major life changes. While not knowing what they may be yet, there are some things you can do proactively that will likely help no matter what.

    1. Develop a relaxing hobby. I recommend learning to play the lute. That way you can play along while in the doctor’s office and it might make the waiting time seem to go much more quickly. It might also have the benefit of stimulating the staff to get you out the door in less real time too.

    2. Start developing your own superpowers. I don’t mean anything silly or unrealistic like Daredevil, but something more achievable that you already have a knack for – like Beastmaster. Spend more time with your dogs and try to get them to do things telepathically like “Keep laying there!” and other useful things. Once this talent is fully developed, it may be handy to have seeing eye ferrets one day.

    3. Start getting Midichlorian injections. I’m not sure how they would help specifically, but if Luke can use them to know how to block little zaps from a floating ball with a lightsabre while blinded, they might come in handy with diminished eyesight.

    4. Change your feature from “Weird food purchase of the day” to “Most incredibly boring food purchase of the day”. If you find that the solution to this issue is a limitation on your diet due to sugar or cholesterol issues, it might not hurt to get in the habit of having eating be something you do simply to subsist instead of something you enjoy.

    5. Consider Ascension. If it meant Daniel no longer needed glasses, I’m sure it would help you with whatever this is that you are experiencing.

    Well, hopefully that all helps you Joe.

    Good Luck!


  17. Joe, you described exactly what hubby had done a few weeks ago. The doctor said he was of the age where it was necessary. I guess I’ll be having one this summer. Ugh!

    Hope your day is a great one!! I’ll be at the Alabama Phoenix Festival!!

  18. Sometimes a good imagination is our worst enemy. That’s for the laughs this morning. I’m shocked they used such an old testing method! My optho guy is more advanced than the “puff in the eye” test. (hated that one). However, the manual eye pressure test is what my Vet uses (old & cheap). Well, you lived through it. They can see retinal nerve damage, which is gluacoma (that is what my optho guy says) with their ….don’t know the name of the tool but if if you have normal eye pressure, they will see the damage. They found damage in one of my eyes but my pressure is normal. I get my eyes checked frequently but the damage is not progressing, so no gluacoma treatment yet. Did you know some gluacoma eye drops change your eye color? Another useless fact I know. 🙂
    I have bad dry eye syndrome too. You could try OTC dry eye solution, it can feel heavenly! Get name brand and not generic.
    My Internet was out for hours yesterday! Some idiot shot through the main fiber optic cable over in West Memphis. The have some kind of gang war going on.
    I’m heading to Nashville tomorrow. Everyone have a nice holiday and be safe!

  19. Oh, Joe, that entry was so timely! First, let me say that I am glad that your eyes (and general health) are good. Next, like Akemi and so many others said: don’t karoshi!

    I had an emergency visit to my eye doctor two weeks ago. You know those little “floaters” you see drifting across your field of vision sometimes when you are looking at something bright? I have a couple of them and I know them quite well since I spend a lot of time looking into the bright light of a microscope. Well, one morning I sat down to read my first slide of the day and suddenly there was a big translucent spider web floating in front of my right eye. New “floaters” can be nothing or they can be a sign of retinal tear which was not a happy thought. (I’ll spare everyone what goes on inside your eyeball that produces the floaters – TMI for this hour of the morning!) Long story short, my ophthalmologist was able to see me that afternoon and gave me a clean bill of health… and told me that eventually I would adjust to the big new floater and barely notice it. Easy for him to say.

    Your tortuous vessels are probably just a normal anatomic variant. So get back to work! 😉

  20. On one hand, I’m very sorry you had to go through this. On the other more selfish hand, I’m glad you did since we got such a funny story out of your medical scare. Both hands are glad you and your eyes are okay.

  21. I take it you’ve never worn contacts. Poking your eye with your finger would be no big deal if you had. I love that hot air balloon thing. I’m never quite sure what it’s for, but my doc has me do it every time. I am very nearsighted (I had lasik a few years ago so I don’t wear glasses now – I started when I was 7 – but that doesn’t change the diagnosis of nearsighted) and the strain on my optic nerves puts me at high risk for glaucoma. Isn’t that grand?

    Please, please, please follow up with your doctor about the diabetes. My dad has lost almost all of his eyesight from it. You DO NOT want to mess around with it.

  22. Joe thanks to you I learn new words and their meanings,,tortuous. Maybe cool compresses, cucumber slices or something to soothe and relax the eye region., head and neck massage. Get a gizmo (they prob have them) to dictate into the computer and it types your stuff into it. Or someone to type your thoughts for you, for a while anyway, maybe rest is what they need from being tortured. So really the anxious waiting on the doctor visit, was not so angst relieving at all.. And reading and doing this blog everyday( don’t stop please) is taxing too..hmmm, thats all I’ve got for now, best of luck on the peepers, a few dog kisses might help….. 😳

  23. It’s never a good thing when you call the dr’s office to ask for test results and their reply is, “You’re still here?”

  24. 😳 I tried to type my reply on the iPad…didn’t work so well. I meant “Thanks” for the memories. Also, they have this cool optic camera that can map your eye. I had a retinal scan years ago and it really helped to compare the past/present photos.

    I just got caught in the middle of a high speed chase. I hope the jerk wad gets caught before he kills someone!

  25. Joey, I’m pretty sure you’ve had Vosges chocolate, and I know you’ve done the bacon thing, but back when you last tried the chocobacon bar, was it available in dark chocolate? (For some reason I thought you had milk chocolate and bacon bar.) Anyway, I just picked this up: http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/mos_dark_chocolate_bacon_bar/bacon_candy_bars

    It’s delicious! I can’t imagine the bacon/milk chocolate combo being that good, but the dark chocolate offers a perfect balance of sweet and salty, imho. Also bought a bar of this: http://www.lakechamplainchocolates.com/grace-potter-chocolate.html

    It’s one of the best hot pepper chocolate bars I’ve had (despite the lower cocao content). Lots of flavor and heat.

    I also picked up Vosges Oaxaca bar with chilies, but haven’t tried it yet (I’m pretty sure I’ve had it before, but it was a few years back and I just don’t remember how it tasted – http://www.vosgeschocolate.com/product/oaxaca_exotic_candy_bar/exotic_candy_bars).

    Lastly, I grabbed a package of Byrne & Carlson’s Smoky Chipotle Palets. A bit salty for my tastes, but I decided they would be excellent over ice cream (like a salty pretzel, without the pretzel 😀 ). Here’s Byrne & Carlson’s site, they have some lovely creations:



  26. Joe, I see you’re reading a Heinlein book right now. So am I. I’m reading Tunnel in the Sky. This book makes me wonder if it was the inspiration for Stargate. They have something called a gate that can transport people and things between worlds.

  27. Speaking about illnesses, best thing to do is ask, Is it serious? If the answer is no, ask will it be serious at some point in the future? Again if the answer is no, ask will I ever need treatment now or at some point in the future? If the answer is still no. Simply move on and don’t stress about it.

    Anyway speaking of your new show, I bet you’re itching to get back into the TV business again Joe. Except this time as its your mini series, you and Paul will have absolute control 🙂

  28. Anyway speaking of Eye stuff, can’t say I have many if any issues with mine. Think I’ve only ever had problems with eye strain if anything, something I should wear glasses for, but it doesn’t happen that often anyway.

  29. You’re supposed to use your imagination’s off switch when you’re waiting on test results.

    You probably just have some insulin resistance from eating too many sweets and have deranged the strength of your vein walls. It’s nothing giving up sugar, wheat, and rice won’t halt as long as you get frequent scans for aneurysms and blood clots.

    Or maybe your immune system has targeted collagen and corrupted the strength of your vein walls. This plays out the same only you don’t need to give up sweets, but you do have to watch out for more complex autoimmune mis-responses, especially if the misdirected attacks turn toward your respiratory system – you don’t have much time to resolve that one.

    ^^Don’t read that. It’s made up. I’m not waiting on test results.

  30. Firstly, if I spell anything wrong or use poor grammar or the wrong words, forgive me – I’m in the middle of a major sugar crash (running on an English muffin with cheese that I had this morning) while in the middle of a typical ‘none of the employees wanna work because it’s an holiday weekend’ disaster. I really need food, and a drink. Make that three drinks. 😛

    @ Sparrowhawk – I have loads of spidery (figures 😛 ) floaters. They started up after I went on BP meds. I suspect that it has something to do with that (and my bad myopia which makes retinal detachment more likely). I remember an NCIS episode where a woman took a lot of the same type of bp meds I’m on in an attempt to alter the blood vessels in her eye so her eye wouldn’t work the retinal scanner. That may have been a bunch of hokum, but my BP meds did give me leaky veins in my legs, so I guess it could have done the same in my eyes.

    Ugh. I really need to eat something.


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