I am BARRY HESS > Blog

My Eyes! My Eyes!

I’ve had an annoying problem for almost a week now. The tear duct in my left eye is blocked.

The body is always producing tears, whether you’re crying or not. These tears drain through your tear ducts, past your nose and into your throat. When the tear duct is blocked, your eye wells up every 3-5 minutes. So you wipe your eye with a tissue rather frequently and you get the same wear-and-tear as you typical experience with your nose during a cold.

Walking in the cold is a joy because, at least for me, any breeze causes my eyes to water more. This means I have tears freezing to my cheeks. Any extended conversation is uncomfortable because it looks like I’m about to cry and I have to constantly wipe my eye while I’m trying to think, talk and listen. I skipped my weekly pick-up basketball game because I could imagine the free-flow of tears being a frustrating experience while trying to run, pass, and shoot.

Who am I kidding? All I do is shoot.

It’s a little thing, kind of like Chinese water torture. I tried warm compresses and massaging the tear duct area, but it hasn’t loosened whatever is in there. I got confirmation of the problem when my brother-in-law (an eye doctor) stopped over last night with a stain to test if the tear duct was draining properly. This process involved putting stain in my eye and later blowing my nose and looking for the dye in the tissue. We also tried the “stick the tissue up the nose” method and the “stick a Q-tip up the nose” method. No stain there, either.

The next step involves a syringe and needle and a boatload of saline. I’m ready to do this right now. Unfortunately, a blocked tear duct in adults my age is pretty uncommon. The problem is prevalent with babies, and somewhat common in the elderly. What this means is that my brother-in-law does not see many people with the problem and does not own the tools he needs to treat me. He’s going to ask some of the other doctors if they have the tools. Luckily there is no sign of infection.

If you’re wondering how this happened, I am not sure. I used expired eye drops in my left eye on the day the problem started. I noticed the expiration date before putting the drops in my other eye. Unfortunately, I can’t remember why I reached for the drops in the first place. I may have put them in because the problem was manifesting itself or I may have put them in for an unrelated reason and the drops probably caused the problem. It seems unlikely that the drops could be the culprit. On the other hand, maybe there was a chemical “perfect storm” going on in my eye.

In other eye news, my brother-in-law confirmed that I am deuteranomalous. This is a very mild form of red-green color deficiency. Unlike someone with deuteranopia, I can easily see the difference between reds and greens. There is no confusion whatsoever. Those with stronger cases of color deficiency typically see reds and greens as different shades of the same color. Near as I can tell, the only effect this deficiency has on me is that I can’t pass the color deficiency test. The reds and greens on a Trix box are clearly identifiable for me to the point that I don’t really understand what my deficiency means in practical terms.

Oh, there is one real impact to deal with here. I cannot be a pilot in the Air Force. Man, oh, man.