Published on June 2, 2020

Visiting my eye doctor during the pandemic

By Edward A. Forbes / The Bulletin

It is that time of year again, time to see my optometrist. My visit should have occurred in March, but the pandemic quarantine and closures forced me to postpone my appointment until May. I try to do a complete exam when I make my annual visit.

Most eye care professionals recommend that you have a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years, depending on your age, risk factors and whether you currently wear eyeglasses or contact lenses. Children need regular eye exams to detect vision problems that may interfere with learning.

In a CDC study involving 11,503 adults aged 40 and over who were considered to have moderate-to-severe visual impairment, 39.8% said they had skipped seeking care in the past year because of costs or lack of insurance.

Almost 35% said they didn’t seek eyesight care because they felt they didn’t need it, while 4.5% said they could not get an appointment.

I happen to fall into the fortunate category of people who get an exam every year.

The next step was a computer exam that gave an estimate of what my current prescription should be. Then I went to an exam room and had my eyes dilated. The drops were given time to work, and the doctor arrived to begin the exam.

The only exam trickier than the eye exam is the hearing test. I always ponder whether I hear a sound or imagine I hear a sound and sometimes feel like I am pushing the affirmative button randomly.

The similarly tricky part of the eye exam is the changing of lens and “which is better…. 1 orrrrrr 2.” The pause between choices does not always help. “Could I see 1 again? Now let me see 2. They look about the same.” “O.K.,” she says, “Lets see which of these are better… 3 (pause) orrrrr 4?” “Let me see 3, now 4. Could I see 3 again? I think 4 is a little better.”

The exam continued until the doctor was satisfied with the new correction. All of this was accomplished while we are, at times, properly masked.

As all bespectacled people know, masks make your glasses fog up, so most of the exam was done without my mask. I had mentioned that my eyes felt irritated, and she confirmed that they were definitely irritated.

The diagnosis was “Dry Eyes.” She gave me samples of lubricant drops to try, and she sent in a prescription for Restasis eye drops. I told her that the copay would be exorbitant, but I would price it before deciding whether to use it. She called in a three-month supply with refills.

My friendly neighborhood pharmacist told me the copay was nearly $800 (ouch), so he reduced it to a 30-day supply with a copay of $397 (smaller ouch, but ouch).

The tears I shed over the price cured my dry eyes, at least temporarily. I am going to try all the samples she gave me. Now it was time for the frame specialist, or better known as the place where we buy eyeglasses.

My eyes were still dilated, and I was alone, so color choices were “iffy” at best. I relied on the young lady helping me to guide me in my decision.

At least I could decide on the shape of the glasses and the type of nose pad they have.

Somehow, I had picked dark green frames, Ralph Lauren of course, which cost $40 more than insurance would pay. I also chose polycarbonate lenses not covered by insurance. I wanted scratch- resistant coating that costs extra. Add to that the transition lens that darkens in bright light. Not covered, either, and costs extra.

As I paid, I was thinking: “Holy shades of Al Roker.” He is now wearing bright red or blue frames on his weather forecasts, as are several musical performers.

I know that I lack resemblance to a star of any magnitude and hope that these fancy, pricey glasses chosen with pupils still dilated do not make me resemble a circus star.

We shall see.

(Edward Forbes wants to hear from you. Email him at eforbes1946@gmail.com or send comments by snail mail to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX. 77516.)