Hint: People With Vision Loss Never Miss This Question
Have you ever complained about the rising cost of health care? Be honest. If you’re living the visual lifestyle you’ve already had your physical, and addressed any problems it might have uncovered. And you should already have had a thorough eye exam by an eye doctor you trust. After these you probably had some work to do on your dietary, exercise, and visual habits. So after the bills from your doctors roll in, you’re supposed to pony up for a gym membership, switch to whole food, and purchase personalized eyewear, right? I get it: if the cost of healthcare in this country hasn’t gotten bad enough, prevention-minded doctors are suggesting lifestyle changes that aren’t cheap. But before you lose perspective, consider the cost of the alternative.
Two Different Perspectives
Yesterday I saw two patients with macular degeneration who had very different outlooks. The first patient, Mrs. Green*, had relatively good vision. It had been nearly a year since I had seen her, because she had canceled her previous testing appointments. When I asked why, she said she canceled the visits because she didn’t want to pay her co-pay. It was $40.
Mrs. Green went on to tell me that although she takes a multivitamin for her macular degeneration, she hasn’t bothered to stop smoking (smokers are 50% more likely to develop severe macular degeneration, and she knows this). Nor has she changed her lifestyle to include a healthy diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables. She cited cost as the reason again, saying, “eating fruits and vegetables is just too expensive.”
It Pays to Be Healthy
Now allow me to be blunt. No matter what you might spend on eye and health care, vision loss is more expensive. I did not ask how much money per month she spends on cigarettes, but I know that a pack a day habit can cost over $2,500 a year. I explained to Mrs. Green that if she would stop smoking she would dramatically improve both her finances and her health. I do not say that lightly. I understand that smokers find that quitting is exceedingly difficult. But so is living with vision loss.
Just ask the very next patient I saw. Mrs. Smith* has severe macular degeneration and has lost most of her central vision. She is totally dependent on others for her well-being. She sees me often, and she regularly sees a retinal specialist who administers injections into her eye to preserve what vision she has left. Most of her day involves trying to function in spite of her vision loss. She can’t see to:
- Watch TV
- Navigate her home
Mrs. Smith told me, “I will do anything to see just a little bit better.” It was an unqualified statement, no strings attached. She didn’t put a cap on the expense she was willing to undergo, because she is desperate to see better. Sadly, there isn’t much I can do at this point but encourage her to continue her treatments, vitamin therapy, diet changes, and customized eyewear for magnification. She didn’t mind. She was happy to have any help at all.
Do you see the difference between the perspectives of Mrs. Green and Mrs. Smith? Mrs. Green hasn’t been in Mrs. Smith’s shoes yet. But she will be if she doesn’t look past the expenses of both health care and self care to see their value. I have told her as much, several times.
And now I am telling you: place a high value on your health and vision. Get and stay healthy. Enduring personal health and a lifetime of clear vision are worth every penny.
And if you smoke, do whatever you can to stop. Make a deal with yourself, replace old habits with new ones, or get help. You will thank yourself years from now if you do. And stay tuned for my next post, where I’ll introduce you to Marlene, someone who regrets ever taking that first puff.
Question: Do you value your health and vision? What steps have you taken to protect both?
*Names changed for anonymity