My Glaucoma Experience and Why You Must Have Your Eyes Checked
In my article, Introduction To The Inner Qi Project, I mentioned that I was diagnosed with glaucoma sometime back in 2009, and by then, my right eye had been damaged 70%!!! Actually, while I was pursuing my first degree in the USA in the late 80s, I visited an optometrist to make a new pair of spectacles and he warned me that the probability of me having glaucoma would be very high.
In the USA, only optometrist are allowed to prescribe glasses and they have to obtain an undergraduate degree before they can enroll for Doctor of Optometry degree. More Australian universities are now moving towards this direction where one needs to have an undergraduate degree before they are able to enroll into a Doctor of Optometry program in order to be qualified as an optometrist. Therefore, the standard of optometrists in USA and Australia is very high where they not only prescribe glasses but are actually expert in eye health.
In Malaysia, anyone can be an optician and prescribe glasses since the government does not require one to have a degree in Optometry. Therefore, this means that most Malaysians visiting an optical shop to make a pair of specs will have their eyes checked by people who are unable to diagnose or identify potential eye problems. As such, it is detrimental to one’s long term well-being. For the record, there are a few qualified optometrist in Malaysia (some even with PhD from USA) and I would recommend that the next time you go make a pair of specs, check the qualification of the “optician” who is testing your eyes.
Coming back to my glaucoma….. so when I returned to Malaysia during a uni break, I made an appointment with a glaucoma specialist at Tun Hussein Onn Eye Hospital in PJ and was told that I had nothing to be worried about. I was about 20 years old then and happily went on with my life chasing after wealth accumulation.
Fast forward to 2009, one fine and beautiful day while I was sitting on the swing enjoying a smoke in my garden, I can’t remember why, but I closed one eye at a time to look at the surroundings and found that my right eye’s vision was kind of blur but not my left. At first I thought my glasses was the problem or maybe the right lens was dirty. So I took off my glasses and used my left eye to look into the right side lens of my glasses and it was clear as day, and when I used my right eye to see through the left lens it was blur, so I concluded that something was wrong with my right eye.
I made an appointment with a well known eye specialist near my home. He checked my eye pressure and concluded that I had glaucoma and prescribed AlphaganP. I was told to administer the medication at night. So, for the first time in my life, I administered the eye drop before I went to sleep. The next morning at around 8.30am, when I woke up and walked to the window to look outside, my eyes were in freaking pain due to the glare of the sunlight. I immediately rushed to the mirror and to my horror, my eyes were burning red like hell. I immediately rushed to the eye doctor (before I quit being a salaryman, I had a chauffeur assigned to me) and the doctor told me that IT WAS NORMAL and with time the redness and pain will disappear.
Guess what? I stupidly believed the doctor and suffered for close to a year. The pressure in my eyes were still high after a few months and this doctor prescribed an additional eye drop called Travatan. So, I had to administer two different eye drops daily. The redness in my eyes never disappeared with time and my eyes were in pain every single day and worst was during midday when the sun was the brightest. And it was impossible for me to play computer games as I couldn’t look at the LCD monitor for long!!!
The pain in my eyes were affecting my life, so I decided to seek another opinion. A friend recommended a Glaucoma specialist at Mid Valley (if you google the best glaucoma specialist in Malaysia, most probably his name would show up in the first page). Well, initially I was very happy with this new doctor. You see, this glaucoma specialist told me the reason why my eyes were red was because I was allergic to AlphaganP prescribed by the first doctor!!! He replaced the Travatan with Cosopt and the next day the redness and pain in my eyes were gone!!! It was a miracle- I could play computer games again. And during the first visit, I was asked to perform a vision test and only then I discovered that my right eye was already 70% damaged!!! The first doctor never asked me to perform a vision test!!! With the new medication, the pressure in my eyes reduced too, from 19 to 12 on the second visit.
However, after some time, the pressure in my eyes kind of increased to 17 but the vision tests (I took whenever I visited him) showed that my vision was not deteriorating. This doctor then said that I needed to go for open surgery (where a hole is made for excess fluid to drain out of the eyeball) to reduce the pressure in my eyes. So I asked him for the cons of going for surgery and the Doctor at ISEC told me that there was a chance of getting cataracts earlier and my eyes may become infected; but most concerning was that the hole would close up naturally with time (like a cut where the wound would heal) and I would need to go for surgery again (this is what the first Doctor said). That is when, I took my glaucoma seriously as I did not want to go for an eye operation.
Now, if you google, you will find that Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness and the first step to treat it is with eye drops, followed by laser treatment, followed by open surgery (which is a temporary measure as the procedure will need to be repeated after 5 years or so) and finally inserting tube(s). You can go google and read more yourself.
Therefore, I asked this so called Top Glaucoma Specialist in Malaysia, why couldn’t I try laser treatment instead of going straight to the operating table. His answer was that laser treatment was not very effective for Asians. He insisted that I go for the operation.
Well, so happened that one of my dad’s friends had been telling us that the eye doctors in Singapore were very good. He had been sending his children for their eye treatment in Singapore. He also told us of a story where his brother was told by an eye specialist in Malaysia that he needed to go for an eye operation, so he took his brother to Singapore and was told by the doctor there that an operation was not necessary.
Many people also advised me to go to Singapore for my glaucoma treatment. So I googled “Singapore + Glaucoma + Laser” , and I found out that the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) which is a government hospital, does hundreds of laser treatments a year for their Glaucoma patients. So I called SNEC to make an appointment and since I was a foreigner, I had to visit their clinic at Gleneagles Hospital at Napier Road.
To make a long story short (I can be very long winded), I was so lucky to be referred to a gorgeous doctor attached to SNEC and after the second visit (3 months after the first consultation) she changed one of the eye drops, Travatan to Lumigan, and the pressure in my eyes decreased. Now, the Lumigan she prescribed can be bought at most pharmacies in KL.
I did go back to my KL Glaucoma Specialist a few times and he was so surprised that my eye pressure suddenly dropped. I never disclosed to him that I was consulting the SNEC doctor. And what pissed me off was that on his table was a notepad supplied by Lumigan (the eye drop prescribed by the SNEC doctor)!!! To me, this so called top glaucoma specialist in Malaysia was not being ethical as he failed to prescribe an alternative medication to see if my eye pressure would reduce but instead gave me some stupid excuse as to why laser treatment was not suitable for me and insisted that I go for an operation!!!
FYI, it has been close to 6 years since I first consulted the gorgeous Singaporean doctor and I am still using the exact same eye drops prescribed during my second visit. However, 2.5 years back, my right eye pressure was increasing slightly and because it was already 70% damaged, the gorgeous doctor recommended that I have it laser treated as a precaution.
The laser treatment took less than 5 minutes and in no time I could walk to the train station to take the train to the airport to catch my flight back to KL. I am pleased to inform you that since that laser treatment to my right eye only, the pressure in both my eyes have been stable at below 15. My doctor is actually kind of surprised that my pressure has been stabilized and so has my vision (no deterioration and in one case the visual field test actually showed improvement which is impossible, hahaha). And since the pressure in my eyes have been stable, since 2 years back the gorgeous doctor at SNEC told me to only visit her in 6 to 8 months intervals instead of 3 to 4 months as she knows it is costly for me to fly to Singapore just to have my eyes checked.
The SNEC clinic at Gleneagles Hospital is like an International Clinic where there are patients from Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Westerners and Arabs. I am going to share with you a secret, even our Malaysian Ministers and VIPs seek treatment from doctors at SNEC.
The fact is, over the years since I came back from USA I have been going to a qualified optometrist who graduated with a Bachelor of Optometry from UKM and also owns the optical shop where I make my glasses but he too failed to inform me of my glaucoma.
FYI, when my youngest daughter wanted to make a pair of specs in Melbourne 2 years ago at a chain optical shop called SpecsSavers, the person who checked her eyes was a qualified optometrist with a Doctor of Optometry from University Melbourne and when she saw my daughter’s eye pressure results (which were on the high side), she was so concerned that she immediately recommended that my wife take my daughter to an eye specialist and was even willing to give a referral. And on top of this, she had my daughter perform a visual field test, which is really good as we can from now on monitor any slight deterioration to her visual field – unlike me where I performed the test for the first time in my early forties only to find out that my right eye was already 70% damaged.
From my experience, if you are diagnosed with glaucoma, please see a glaucoma specialist and not just any eye doctor. And this I feel strongly about – the doctor should try all kinds of eye drops before suggesting going for an operation, like in my case, there was no further deterioration of my vision for more than a year and the pressure was within normal range but the doctor suggested an operation. The first doctor I went to, worse still, told me there was no point going for an operation but failed to realize that my eyes were allergic to the medicine he prescribed. Find a doctor you are comfortable with. There are many around and no two doctors have the same experience and motives. Unless your eye pressure is damn bloody freaking high i.e. above 30 or even more, and the Doctor says that surgery is imminent, you better listen but if possible, always get a second opinion when it comes to surgery.
I am no doctor by the way, I am simply writing this to share my experience. I just don’t want to go for eye surgery as there is a small chance that after surgery I may even go blind if there is an infection that cannot be cured – confirm this with your doctor.
The point of me telling you the this story is:
- The standard of eye care by our local opticians (in Malaysia) in optical stores in the malls, even though the optician/optometrist may have a degree in optometry, is not on par (more like non-existent) with their counterparts in USA or Australia in terms of equipment and maybe even training.
- Most of us go for yearly health screening costing hundreds of Ringgit if not thousands. But the health screening does not include a visual field test. I recommend that you immediately go perform a Visual Field Test; and, then periodically. So that you can monitor if your vision is deteriorating and seek treatment before it is too late (like in my case by the time I did a visual field test, my eye was 70% gone). More so if you are above 40 years old and any of your relatives have glaucoma (including uncle or aunt) or have diabetes.
- No two doctors are the same, i.e. training and motives.
- If you are told you need to go for an operation (for any illness), always seek a second and even a third opinion. As you can see from the above, my eye pressure was within the “normal” range and there was no deterioration in my vision but yet the KL Glaucoma Specialist insisted that I go for an operation. On the other hand, all the Singapore Glaucoma Specialist did was prescribe another eye drop and the pressure in my eyes dropped.
EYE HEALTH TIPS
Protect Your Eyes By Simply Wearing Sunglasses
Whenever you go out during the day, especially on a sunny day, I strongly recommend that you wear a pair of sunglasses. The sun’s rays are very harmful to the eyes and you can verify this by simply googling about it.
If your work requires you to be under the sun most of the time, it is imperative that you wear sunglasses. The effect of the sun’s rays on your eyes will only show up later in your life and by that time the damage would have been done and most likely irreversible.
If you have Transitions lenses that darken under the sunlight, it is good if you are walking under the sun but it is useless when you are driving. You see, when you are in the car, the Transition lenses may not necessarily darken. Therefore, I would recommend that if you are driving long distance, get yourself a pair of prescription polarized sunglasses.
And here’s another tip about sunglasses – on a heavy rainy day during the daytime, wear your sunglasses and you’ll be surprised that you can see much better.
Eye Drops to Freshen Tired or Dry Eyes
If your eyes get tired or dry, try Refresh Plus. It comes in individual capsules and thus more hygienic. Each capsule can be used once for both eyes. I find Refresh Plus to be very good and effective whenever I drive long distance where my eyes would get very tired under the bright sunlight even with my sunglasses on.
And since it comes in capsules, I always have a few of them in my sling bag, near my computer and next to my bed.
Supplements For Your Eye
This is one vegetable that is not only cheap and abundant but really, really good for the eyes. And it can also be consumed in juice form.
Goji Berry – also known as Chinese Lycium and Wolfberry
Many Chinese soup recipes have goji berries; however the amount used is insignificant to be of any major benefit. One way to consume goji berries so that you can actually benefit your eyes is to eat them like raisins, e.g.. pop them into your mouth one by one as you are watching a movie 🙂 I know of 2 people who have really bad vision, however with them just consuming goji berries, their vision improved tremendously.
My friend introduced me to a Japanese product called Super Lutein more than 5 years ago after I was diagnosed with glaucoma. And I tell you that it was really good as far as improving my vision was concerned. However, it was a MLM thingy, therefore, the product was being sold at a ridiculously high price. In order to buy it at a lower price, you’ll need to join as a member. Anyway, I stopped taking Super Lutein after a few months.
Combination of Fish Oil, Lutein and Zeaxanthin
The contents below were posted in one of my old blogs back in 2011 and I thought it is worthwhile to repeat them here:
Once again, the above contents in italic where published back in 2011 in one of my old blogs. FYI, I have stopped taking OCCUSharp Lutein and Fish Oil years ago. Back to present time, i.e. year 2016.
Blocked Qi Release Technique For My Blur Vision
One morning back in early September 2016 while in Melbourne CBD, as usual first thing I do in the morning is to go to the balcony to have a cup of coffee to go along with a stick of cigarette. I noticed my vision was extremely blur that morning. So, I kind of panicked and immediately performed Blocked Qi Release Technique on my poor vision. After I completed the BQRT, I went to the balcony again and I noticed that my vision did improve.
However, Blocked Qi Release Technique cannot cure glaucoma; because glaucoma is a physical damage of the optic nerve (which transmits images to the brain) and is irreversible.
One of my BQRT course-mates asked me to get her two bottles of Nature Care Bilberry Lutein while I am in Melbourne. Well, in late October 2016, I dropped by Chemist Warehouse and they were having a sale on the Bilberry Lutein for AUD14.94 down from the usual price of about AUD23. So, not only did I buy two bottles for her but I also bought one bottle for myself.
Like I mentioned earlier from my past experience, the best time to take Lutein, in my case is first thing in the morning before I have breakfast. Guess what? After I started taking the Bilberry Lutein, I noticed that my vision improved tremendously, it’s as if my vision is 20/20!!!
I am not sure if Healthy Care Bilberry Lutein is sold in Malaysia or not but if you know anyone who is visiting Australia, ask them to get a couple of bottles for you.
FYI, you can also can Blackmores Bilberry easily in KL.
If you are young, most probably your priority is to accumulate wealth and not your health. And many often ignore the well being of their eyes until their vision is affected. As I mentioned earlier, most medical test/screening does not include Visual Test Field; therefore, I would recommend that you carry out the Visual Field Test ( Humphrey Field Analyzer) for your own record. More so if (1) any of your relatives have glaucoma, (2) any of your relatives have a history of diabetes or (3) the pressure in your eyes are on the high side. If you take the Visual Field Test every couple of years or so, you can monitor your vision and if there is any deterioration, you can then seek appropriate treatment before it gets worse.