An Eye-Opener for Macular Degeneration
by Edward Critchfield
I am a retired administration manager of an engineering company dealing with water treatment plants. My days were spent dealing with paperwork. I had never given my eyes much thought until presbyopia set in around 1980 when I was 53. I suddenly found it difficult to read clients’ letters - the print appeared blurry.
I was very fortunate to see an ophthalmologist who conducted a thorough eye examination. It was discovered that I had Drusen Syndrome, which is pigmentation of the retina in both eyes. He told me not to worry, but that I would probably need glasses for watching TV by my eighties.
During the next few years, I had two or three stronger prescriptions. As time went on I noticed that words seemed distorted and elongated, especially through the left eye, even with my glasses on.
When I visited the opticians in 1987, I found it difficult to figure out the C on the test card with my left eye. It was casually mentioned that macular degeneration had developed. The Drusen Syndrome was stable, however.
Then around 1991, I was referred to Moorfields. I was informed that nothing could be done about the left eye - the macula had gone. My case notes had also been lost so my Drusen’s Syndrome was never checked. I was fed up. All they gave me was an Amsler recording chart. This is a sheet of paper depicting a grid of black squares with a black dot in the middle. If I failed to see the latter, I should return for treatment. However, as a letter to my GP confirmed, there was no apparent treatment anyway.
Well, I thought, as long as I can see with one eye, why do I need two? After all, I had no difficulty in getting around. I only needed spectacles for reading.
I began to consider whether anything else could help. In the mid eighties I had been involved with spiritual healing, which had helped me with my work problems. I had also read Harry Benjamin’s book "Better Sight without Glasses", some time before my eye troubles had started.
It was by chance that my sister Jessie told me about Daryl Walker, a Bates teacher who lived nearby in Marlow. She had mentioned that a lady of 84 had been helped with macular degeneration.
So I wrote off for a list of practitioners and sought out Ajay Sehgal in July 1997. At the time my prescription was +2.5 dioptres in both eyes, plus astigmatism.
I found the palming very relaxing and enjoy sessions lasting from two minutes to one hour on a daily basis. If I am watching TV, palming through the commercial breaks enables me to see the programmes more clearly afterwards.
The long swing and the head swing have been very good for me. If I alternately open and close my eyes every few minutes, my surroundings become more vivid. I practice these techniques on a blue notice board with white letters in the local Oxfam shop where I work part-time. "Thieves will be prosecuted" becomes more distinct after a swing. When I glance at different objects dotted around the place, central fixation is encouraged. With macular degeneration, it is the central visual field which needs stimulating.
Believe it or not, I really like juggling beanbags. I look straight ahead as I catch them in each hand, with the help of my peripheral vision. Alternate patching of the right and then the left eye has increased my awareness of objects, apparently moving towards and away from me, as I pace up and down the room. I notice their relative size and distance from each other, as well as from myself.
Both eyes have improved, even the left one. Last year, early macular degeneration was detected in the right eye, but since having Bates lessons, it has remained stable.
I can now read newspaper print, but if I feel my eyes are straining, I do not hesitate to put on my glasses. The opticians advised me to wear them all the time, but I certainly do not. By August 1998, the prescription was lowered to +1.75 in the right eye and +2 in the left, with astigmatism.
Not only is my eyesight better, but my memory has also improved. It was a standing joke at work that I could never remember what orders I had processed in the morning when my supervisor came to check them in the afternoon. In fact it was only a few months ago that I surprised myself as treasurer of the local drama group by recalling the purchase details of amplification equipment. I immediately resolved the argument about it.
I have recommended the Bates lessons to several people. In the meantime, I am continuing to improve. On 15th October, 1998, I could see the 18 line on the test card with my left eye at six metres. The Bates Method has certainly been an "eye-opener" for me!
October 10, 1998