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Oh say can you see?

Published February 12. 2011 09:00AM

An eye doctor appointment can be full of surprises, both good and bad.

I noticed I was having trouble reading fine print and especially the classifieds.

I was afraid I had cataracts and so I scheduled an appointment.

After all, if there is anything as important as taking care of your heart, it's taking care of your eyes.

But I get very nervous about the idea of a doctor studying my baby blues. Someone once told me that an eye doctor can figure out much about your health simply by giving you an eye exam. I don't know if that's true, but I do know that eye checkups are more important as we grow older.

Cataracts can be an issue and are a leading cause of blindness in older adults.

More than 20 million Americans over age 40 have cataracts, according to Prevent Blindness America. Basically, cataracts act as a roadblock, stopping or slowing the transmission of light.

With cataracts, the lens of the eye becomes cloudy. Your vision will become blurry or dim because light can't properly pass through the lens to the retina. This is an issue because the lens should be clear in order to focus light onto the retina at the back of the eye. Those images are then sent to the brain.

Doctors aren't sure what causes cataracts, aside from the aging process. Some say UV rays of the sun might play a role, or maybe heredity, steroid use, smoking, diabetes, or whatever.

One sign of cataracts is that your household lights seem too dim for reading. Was this happening to me, I wondered.

I dislike going to doctors and so every appointment is an adventure.

Eye exams begin by having the patient look into a scary-looking machine. Those contraptions are straight from a Vincent Price horror movie.

"Can you read the letters at the top of the chart," asks the doctor.

"What chart," I respond.

"The chart over there on the wall," he says.

"What wall," I answer.

Turns out, the doc forgot to open the lens cover on the machine. Eye doctors are human, too. After the exam, the doc confirms that I'm nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. I'm not sure how that happened but I've been that way my entire life, and it's something every eye doctor tells me.

Then he startles me with info.

"Your eyes are correctable to twenty-fifteen," he says.

"Oh my," I say. "That's awful! Does this mean I'll have my vision for only four more years?"

"No, no," says the doc. "You don't understand. Most people consider 20/20 to be perfect vision. In your case, when you wear eyeglasses, your vision is even better than 20/20. You're actually what we'd call 20/15." And maybe even be 20/10, with eyesight better than perfect. The doc says it all has to do with the way the cones are formed, due to heredity.

"Are you serious," I say.

"Yep," he affirms. "You can see things that most other people can't. You can see things that even I can't see."

Well, that explains it. For many years, other people accused me of seeing things that weren't there. And now I know why.

Turns out, I was right all along. I've been vindicated from a lifetime of wrongful accusations.

Naturally, I feel good about going to the eye doctor. I still worry a little bit about cataracts and glaucoma.

But for now, I have the eyes of Superman. I can spot kryptonite a mile away. I'll be the first to warn you of danger.

So please don't call me crazy and don't say I'm seeing things. At this point in life, I'm a person of vision. Now, if only I could remember where I put my car keys.

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