Friday, January 14, 2011


If there's one thing I remember from third grade science class, it was this tidbit of information:  you will start having trouble seeing things close-up sometime after your fortieth birthday.

Now, I don't remember all the specifics of the explanation given, nor do I remember if this was expressed as an absolute.  For some reason I can't remember if this was before or after I got my first pair of glasses, which was also in the third grade.

My eyes were bad when I was a kid, despite - or, according to some people, because of - the fact that I was an avid reader.  I got through kindergarten and first and second grade without corrective lenses, but sometime in third grade my eyes had worsened to the point that I could no longer see the blackboard clearly.  (We were still using blackboards back then, not whiteboards or flatscreen displays or three-dimensional holograms or whatever the kids are being taught on these days.)  My new glasses, which were thick and ugly, corrected that, and I could see again.  (Though the first time I went outside for recess after I got them I panicked when I thought some of the older boys were trying to play a trick on me by holding some sort of hoop-on-a-stick in front of my face.  Turned out it was just my eyeglass frames seen from extremely close range.)

My distance vision was lousy from that point on, and got worse as time went on.  But close-up I had microscopic vision.  I could bring things almost up to the surface of my eye and see finer and finer detail.  I was convinced that my "near point", the closest point you can focus on, was somewhere inside my eyeball.

And this continued to be true until somewhere after my fortieth birthday.

I last got new glasses in early 2009.  At that point my eye doctor and I discussed the possibility of getting bifocals.  I wasn't really there yet, but I was on the edge.  We opted to wait until next time.

I never liked the glasses I got that time, which I am wearing as I write this.  My eye insurance was not the best, and would only cover a small part of my refraction (which was handled by an out-of-network doctor I have been seeing for over fifteen years) if I filled out a bunch of forms with an identity thief's treasure trove of information.  They would partially reimburse me for my glasses if I got them from one of a very limited number of dispensers.  I selected a big-box membership club to which I belong.  The frames seemed nice, and had a feature that allows the hinges on the temple pieces to swing open 90 degrees, avoiding the hazards of breaking the temple pieces off.  But the tiny screws holding them together soon began to loosen up, and finally one of them developed a habit of falling out entirely.  I dealt with this first by retightening the screws on a weekly and then daily basis, then by replacing the prodigal screw with a different one, and then simply glued everything together as a last-ditch fix.

The lenses were another matter.  I have always preferred glass to plastic lenses.  I had plastic lenses once when I was a teen and hated them:  the image through them seemed blurred and wavy, with nothing like the sharpness and clarity I enjoyed from glass lenses before or since.  And, of course, they scratched easily.  But glass lenses have gradually been becoming harder and harder to find - due, I am told, to liability concerns.  As my eyes worsened, my glasses became thicker and thicker and heavier and heavier.  My last glass lenses were made of high index of refraction glass which allowed me to enjoy the benefits of glass in a marginally thinner lens.

The big box membership club where I got my current pair of glasses didn't offer glass lenses, only polycarbonate.  When I got them they seemed blurred and wavy, but at least were scratch-free.  That soon changed.  They also seemed to be a hair off from where they should have been.  I chalked this up to slight changes in my eyes since my refraction, but it is possible that they simply screwed up the order.

My near vision issues continued to worsen after I got these lenses.  It didn't help that I was in a job that demanded frequent reading of identification codes etched in metal in characters about two millimeters tall.  I began to regularly pop my glasses up to read these numbers bare-eyed.  Soon I found myself doing the same thing for any reading.  Obviously the time had come for new glasses.

I was in a bit of a pickle with respect to my insurance.  My last glasses were from early 2009, and my insurance only covered one new pair of glasses every two years.  But my job was slated to run out sometime at the end of 2010, maybe.  Probably.  Perhaps.  Depending on how things went.  So unless I somehow found myself working and covered by insurance come early 2011, it looked like I would be on my own for getting new glasses.

2010 ended, and so did my job.  COBRA doesn't cover eye insurance.  And I found myself sizing up white canes.  In the end I decided to bite the bullet and follow through on the appointment that had been scheduled two years earlier.  Better to spend the money when I really didn't have it than to go to job interviews half-blind.

So today I had that appointment.  Had my eyes dilated, which is just wearing off eight hours later.  Got measured for bifocals - lineless progressives, dispensed by the place where I had my refraction done.  Polycarbonate with a scratch-resistant coating.  We'll see how long that lasts.

These new glasses, which I should have in about a week and a half, cost a hell of a lot of money. But your vision is not something to skimp on.  I hope they're worth the investment.


dee said...

Whenever I get glasses I go with the best lenses possible -- ultralight polycarbonate (because my far vision is around 20/700 in the right and 20/500 in the left), non glare coating, scratch resistant coating, and for the last ten years, no line bifocals. I wear them every waking moment and it just makes sense to get a good pair. I remember my eye doctor telling me (back when I first got glasses in 4th grade) that eventually my far vision would improve, and it has, though it took about 45 years for that to happen. But the near vision gets worse at about the same pace.

So yes, get the very best lenses you can afford (and even better than you can afford, if necessary). And know you'll have to change them in two years, if not less.

Linkmeister said...

I absolutely require photogray lenses, which used to mean glass. It also meant about $100 more for the pair, but they lasted a few years.

If I can believe what I wrote on my blog in 2005 I now have plastic Transition lenses, which do the photogray thing too. I have the half-moon bifocal; maybe next time around I'll go with lineless.