I’ll never forget the day when I truly saw Central Park for the first time. On a chilly, clear autumn day, I went to pick up a pair of glasses that were sturdy enough to wear for when I play squash. After complaining for years about my vision problems, at the age of 54, I finally found an optometrist who took me seriously and prescribed single-distance vision eye glasses with prism lenses. Prism lenses can help with diplopia, or double vision. He wasn’t even certain these would help me, but he decided to try something new. (Learn about other amazing vision breakthroughs.)
The moment I put those glasses on, a world I had never known went into focus. All around me, depth, color, and texture began to take a new meaning. I saw the leaves on the trees differentiate themselves from one another and the water on the lake ripple. But it took me a long time to get to this moment.
As a kid, I often had problems reading, even though I was a driven student. I would constantly feel tired. If I read for 15 minutes, I would need to rest. In seventh grade, my mother, a surgical nurse, saw I was struggling and took me to an ophthalmologist. As other eye doctors would tell me in the future, this doctor told my mom my vision was fine. Still, I knew something was wrong. In class, I was unable to read without stumbling on the words, stuttering, and mispronouncing them. When I would read aloud, I experienced bullying from other classmates.
Diagnosing a vision problem
I didn’t know what to call what I had. In 2009, I only learned that it had a name—esophoria—after I finally got the prism glasses. Esophoria is a condition of binocular vision disorder (BVD), where the eyes tend to deviate inward, causing double vision, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. It took three more years before being officially diagnosed with BVD, which affects at least 12 percent of Americans. It can hamper a person’s ability to read, and can also be accompanied by headaches, and balance issues.
I spent decades seeing overlapping and blurred images, where most people see a single image. So, not only was my reading blurred, but it caused constant eye strain, too. I had another BVD issue as well called anisometropia, which means my two eyes have large discrepancies in their refractive powers. I recalled a past exam, where a doctor had found my anisometropia, but missed my esophoria.
Overcoming a vision problem
Despite my eye conditions, I kept doing the best I could. In high school, I got a job at Gannett News. Reading was been extremely challenging, but I made it through law school by committing swaths of information to memory. As a result of that, I could recall facts without having to crack a book.
After law school, I was able to work, but I often passed on great jobs because I couldn’t keep up with the reading. Plus, I was constantly tired because of the eye strain.
In 2009, when I put on that pair of prism glasses everything changed. I finally got to see the world in a whole new way, and something else shifted in me. It was amazing: When I wore my new eyeglasses, I was able to see single-image print instead of blurred text. I also experienced greater depth perception.
And it gets better. I discovered that, over time, I no longer needed to even wear prism glasses, and my doctor confirmed that my BVD has been resolved. We know that vision is all about the brain, and sometimes prism glasses will not only correct vision but improve it. They work by aligning the eyes and improving the eye/brain connection.
These days, I tell everyone about BVD and I encourage people to make sure they get a BVD assessment as part of their comprehensive eye exam, then follow up with an eye care professional regarding the best course of treatment. I want everyone to know about this vision problem and get the help they need.
For more information about BVD, visit the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.