Thursday, December 25, 2014

Looking back at 2014 and looking forward to 2015

I just reread my post from December 25th, 2013. It's always interesting to compare thoughts over time. Often we get lost in the day to day to remember the overall progress we have made. I remember being able to do some bar reading for the first time ever in January 2014. I also remember being able to do head turns without the view going double and shaky in May. This still isn't always the case, depending on fatigue, but that's when it happened for the first time. Stabilizing the Vestibulo-Ocular Reflex will be of utmost importance to complete this visual rehab process. Two major milestones right there.

These firsts produced themselves under controled circumstances and while maintaining a regimen including lots of rest. They need to be solidified but they are obviously good signs. I still face trouble reading and using electronics due to convergence problems BUT there is improvement. Improvement is what we are going for. You can't expect to directly go from being partially paralized to running marathons. It feels like I'm litterally completing a picture and filling in the holes, motorically and perceptually. Each year, since I discovered Vision Therapy, I have added or improved underdeveloped or damaged visual skills and it's compiling into something substantial. I hope all these elements will come together, integrate and anchor themselves through sensory fusion and hopefully stereovision the upcoming year. In the end it will have been worth every second. As the years go by I feel less shell-shocked and post-traumatic stressy and more grounded and armed with more adequate visual artillery to face the world and its challenges. If I can pile another year of improvement on top of that, who knows where that will lead me. I'm eager to find out and pursue that road. Usually the results always produce themselves but the timeline is always more extended than I'd hoped for. God, give me patience! :) Happy New Year!

It might have to be the next Christmas, or the one after that,
but I will get what I'm after.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

VIDEO: Current convergence status + The 'time-of-day-effect'

For a previous post I uploaded a video recorded in December, 2011 and went on to compare it to a video captured in May, 2014. The images were self-explanatory and it was pretty spectacular! I recommend for anyone with strabismus to make videos of their eyes. It's great to monitor VT progress and, in doing so, keep motivation levels high. Adhering to that idea I made some more flattering videos.

In those earlier videos I converged on a pen. In 2011 I failed radically. In May 2014 it finally started to look like something you'd call convergence. Converging on a pen was just a way of demonstrating the problem because, in reality, just being able to maintain that static pose won't get you far in terms of every day visual activities. In other words, there's still a lot of work improving more dynamic convergence activities such as the tiny saccades needed for reading. While reading I have to do a lot of correcting my eye movements. These corrections drain your energy, up the frustration and visual confusion levels, diminish reading comprehension. Generally it just brings you down! However, that's very hard to get on camera... Those mistakes and their consequent corrections are now likely to be something akin to nano-millimeters, at least initially. From the inside these issues are very noticeable but not so much from the outside.

Because of this, I thought of a different way to register my remaining convergence issues by shifting the convergence frontier to the extreme. Instead of converging on a pen, this time I converged on the little nose supports of my glasses. Not a very natural movement but useful to elicit and demonstrate remaining convergence problems. You'll see that my left eye can't sustain this posture and drifts out towards the middle.

The first video was recorded around 6PM on December 11th, 2014. I was already quite tired when recording this video so the problem is very noticeable.

The second video was recorded around noon on December 13th, 2014. It was a Saturday so I was able to sleep longer. Sleep is an important factor. No perfect convergence either but a very remarkable difference compared to the first video.

Not only are these videos interesting as a record of my current convergence status but also a reminder that the time of day and fatigue levels can influence the results of a vision exam! Sometimes you do better or worse at the optometrists's office than is generally the case! Keep that in mind.

In an unspecified period of time I will post a similar video in which I will be able to sustain this kind of convergence without trouble.  Haaaa, one of the final frontiers in order to improve reading stamina and overall visual stamina. This is a big deal, people. A BIG DEAL! Back when I was a full-blown and manifest strabismic, I thought 'Convergence Insufficiency, how hard can it be?' but I admit it's a b*tch.

PS: It's my birthday! :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Check-up 9: Our four year anniversary

On December first I had my half yearly optometric evaluation. Sight in both eyes is good but the axis of astigmatism in my left eye has shifted marginally.

This is my current Rx.
OD: +2.50
OS: +2.50 cyl -1.0 axis 35°

When testing my binocular vision my ocular motor abilities are approximating what it should be. When testing sensory fusion things are less clear. Looking through an haploscope using some basic targets I do perceive the suppression controls and have what looks like a consistent and fused image. Based on this my optometrist tells me I have 'central and peripheral fusion'. I'm not so sure though. Using anaglyph (stereo)targets I do not perceive 'luster' fusion, rather I perceive constant switching between red and green. It seems hard to agree on a definition of fusion. But it is true that even though I might still have some form of intermittent and partial suppression at times, it is very easy to consciously break that suppression. Nonetheless it might still be too conscious a decision, especially while in motion. (More about the issue of unconscious intermittent and partial suppression and a potential solution in later blog posts).

In stereo targets, as seen through the haploscope, I can discern the correct relative distance between various elements of the picture by the way my eyes converge or diverge while viewing each of them in turn. When using polarized stereomaterials I do not directly perceive any 3D. To sum up, during none of the tests did I perceive any salient 3D but there are promising signs. "Certainly no bad news today.", the optometrist said.

Revised 'timeline' - Last surgery was in August 2009

The challenge as a chronically untreated young adult with strabismus would have been to overcome the neurological atrophy and the decay of my vision, both motorically as perceptually, as it unfolded ever since my visual development went array. Compared to the current undertaking, that would have been relatively easy. Not easy, but relatively easy. However, I (and my optometrist with me) would say that eighty percent of my recovery is about overcoming the abysmal results of the surgeries I have undergone as a young adult (ages 16, 18, 19) completely obliterating my academic and professional prospects. That is why I am about to enter my fifth year of Vision Therapy.

In order to add more perspective, I'd like to translate and paraphrase some of the conversation I had with him in Dutch.

MICHAEL:  "Let's forget I've been doing this for four years and I were to walk into your office for the very first time in my current condition. What would you tell me?"

G. NAEGELS: "I would tell you you have a slight exophoria and all physiological preconditions for stereopsis recovery are present. In view of the fact that you only developed strabismus at the age of three (accommodative strabismus) your recovery prospects back then would have been excellent. At that age it is very likely you have already SEEN in stereo up until the binocular disruption. I'd recommend for you to try and re-acquire stereo vision because it will greatly improve the quality and stability of your vision and life in general. I think it's within reach now. But it has to happen of course."

MICHAEL: "I'll have to make it happen then."

G. NAEGELS: "That being said, I still think that deontologically speaking I made the right call four years ago by telling you there was not much hope for recovery. Not every patient is as motivated and persistent as you are. I could not have foreseen that and I would not want to arouse expectations that can not be met by the optometrist alone. I've never seen someone so engaged in his recovery. I'm very happy to may have witnessed this in person. It's a pleasant surprise for me and it reaffirms what we are doing here."

MICHAEL: "Thanks. I have no other option so I act pragmatically. It's swim or drown. It's that simple. This HAS to work out."