What's it like to get a needle in the eyeball?
April 9, 2007 6:58 AM   Subscribe

What's it like to get a needle in the eyeball?

What, you need more than that?

My darling girlfriend has been diagnosed with punctate inner choroidopathy, or PIC, one of a number of what seem to be known as white dot syndromes. So far they're finding non-invasive ways to deal with it but it's not beyond the realm of possibility that at some point they'll have to meddle about in her eye, either with a laser or, more likely, a needle.

She is, understandably, a little freaked by this concept.

Her eye-phobic issues are... complicated. As a contacts wearer she touches her eye on a regular basis so any contact isn't a screaming-meemie occasion, but she's protective of her eyes. I don't think any more so than any rational human being, but she believes herself to be more protective and more likely to blink and pull away from the doc than average, so that's her mindset on the matter. Her docs have been great about being reassuring, but she'd like to know a little more about what it's going to be like from the perspective of the recipient of the needle rather than the wielder.

So - have you, for whatever reason, ever had to have eye surgery or an injection in your eye? Was the experience better, worse, or about the same as you expected?
posted by phearlez to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Chances are she'll be sedated. What she's experiencing is normal pre-needle-in-eyeball jitters. :) They'll either knock her out or give her enough so that she won't care anymore.

Me: Vitrectomy, retinal surgery, the works. Lots of needles in my eyeball. Also knives, fingers, and lasers.
posted by unixrat at 7:17 AM on April 9, 2007

I've had the ol' eyeball needle. I was fairly well drugged at the time, but I remember that to my surprise that it didn't hurt, but I did feel an immense amount of pressure. YMMV, I was on some high quality drugs for an unrelated condition.
posted by Alison at 7:20 AM on April 9, 2007

ayup, I've had 6 eye surgeries, at least three of which where pretty invasive. They dope you up good. Just getting a needle in your eye is pretty hurt free on the scale of these things... having your eye taken out and a band stitched on the outer perimeter, that sucks.
posted by edgeways at 7:29 AM on April 9, 2007

I've had lasik. I am so flinchy about my eyes that I have never been able to even contemplate contacts, and when they do those eyeball pressure tests for cataracts, they practically have to wrestle me to the floor.

Now, I had been given valium for the lasik, but it hadn't kicked in. They did put numbing drops on my eyes (which made a big difference, I do believe), they had my eyes held open with clockwork-orange clips, my head was more or less immobilized in the headrest of the chair, and I was concentrating really hard on the negative consequences of flinching. It actually wound up being not bad, and was over surprisingly quickly.
posted by adamrice at 7:54 AM on April 9, 2007

edgeways, did you have a scleral buckle fitted? Me too.
posted by A189Nut at 8:24 AM on April 9, 2007

Cornea transplant here. They doped me up pretty well on valium, but I was conscious and aware the whole time. They anesthetize the eyeball itself, so there's no pain during the procedure. Your eye doesn't really have many nerve endings, so there wasn't even much pain after the fact.

They clamped my eyelid open, and used something else to keep my eye from rolling around. (For obvious reasons, I never got a good look). The weirdest part was when they removed my old cornea, and the world went out of focus. Then they stitched in the new cornea, and the world came back into focus. The fun part was that I could tell my vision was better with the new cornea, even as they stitched it into place.

Here's the part that I think will help your girlfriend. After the surgery, I had to have the stitches removed...all 23 of them. All the stitches were removed by using a needle to sort of pluck at the stitch until the cord snapped. Then the doctor would use wee little tweezers to pull the cord out. We removed one or two stitches per visit, over the course of a month.

All this took place in a normal optomotrist office. You know, the usual chair with lenses and the chart on the far wall. My doctor would numb my eye with a couple of drops before starting. I had a bottle of drops at home, in case my eye felt sore. I usually didn't have to use any extra drops though. Actually snipping the stitch out felt mostly like a tug. All in all the visits were much, much less painful than a visit to the dentist.

As for dealing with a person coming at your eye with a needle, you get used to it faster than you'd expect. I remember chatting with my doctor throughout the procedure. I never dreaded the visits, because they never hurt. The most painful part of the whole process was the shot of whatever they gave me in the leg before the surgery. That hurt! The most annoying part was having to wear an eyepatch for a month, followed by these ridiculous wrap-around sunglasses for months after.
posted by Eddie Mars at 8:26 AM on April 9, 2007

I've not had a needle to eyeball--yet--but I have had laser eye surgery at least three times for retinal tears. I won't lie--it was an extremely uncomfortable procedure. I am not sure if what would be done to your girlfriend would be similiar but in my case, there are drops put into your eyes to dilate and I believe numb the eye. The procedure is done in a pitch dark room. The laser goes in through the pupil, and it's astonishingly bright (no surprise), but you're not supposed to look at it, but beyond it.

If one is claustraphobic, I imagine the experience would be worse. There is pain, but not intense, when the laser touches the retina (I think--the back of the eye, anyway). In my case, they were sealing up tears and also trying to create scar tissue to make the area stronger. It's quite uncomfortable, not because the pain is great, but because of the darkness, the intense light, the pinprick sensations, and being immobile.

I've also had a surgery where the eye was frozen to seal/scar, and in that case they literally had my eyeball pressed up against some device to keep my eye immobile. There was considerable pain afterward. This was worse than the laser surgery.

I have no trouble touching my eyes to put in contacts or fish around for a stray eyelash, but eye surgery is not fun. But it's okay. It's better than losing vision by far, and it's not the end of the world. You do have trust, and resist any impulse to blink and pull away.

My theory is that as a high prescription glasses wearer, I am already very protective of what eyesight I have, so instead of dreading surgery, I would focus on doing whatever needed to be done to keep my vision. Hopefully, your girlfriend will be able to think this way, too.

The laser surgery was a bizarre experience. I don't want to say like a near-death experience, but blackness, brightness, pain and being immobile can be very uncomfortable. If the doctor agrees, and she is nervous, I would think something to alleviate anxiety beforehand is a great idea.
posted by Savannah at 8:31 AM on April 9, 2007

Some years ago, I had problems with a blocked tear duct. I saw a very nice specialist, who too-patiently explained things to me with large, graphic images, with a large (it seemed) curved and presumably non-sharp syringe hovering nearby.

Not actually a jab in the eyeball that was in the offing, just flushing the duct out, but it was close enough for my brain. I passed out. Repeatedly.

I tried again a week later, on Ativan or similar. Same deal.

Looking back, I think I should've taken the day off, and taken enough drugs to be quite thoroughly out of it.

So, she's not the only one skeeved out by eyeball (or near-eyeball) poking. I have minimal problem with the cataract test mentioned above, can fish out a stray eyelash with no problem, but -- needles? Different story.

Not terribly useful perhaps, but -- do file 'fainting' under the realm of possible reactions. Get her a nice box of Victorian lace hankies just in case.
posted by kmennie at 9:15 AM on April 9, 2007

They paralyze the eye so it won't move. Won't feel anything, but it's still scary as hell seeing a needle going towards the eye. Shoot, it freaks me out just seeing that little blue light going towards me while at the optometrist's.
posted by Xere at 12:43 PM on April 9, 2007

Are you watching House tonight? Kid just got 2 needles in the eye.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:23 PM on April 9, 2007

A189Nut, ayuh, both eyes at different parts of my life. I've actually kind of lost track of how many eye surgeries I've had, but know it's been at least six.
posted by edgeways at 7:19 PM on April 9, 2007

Slightly tangential, but I've always wondered what it would feel like without all the drugs. Would your blink reflexes largely prevent the needle/random sharp object from making significant contact?
posted by kyleg at 10:23 PM on April 9, 2007

kyleg, in my experience, you can override the reflex without drugs. Granted, this was a needle being used to pull out stiches, so the eye wasn't pierced, but there was a lot of tugging and pulling on the eyeball. I just pried open my eyelids with my fingertips, and tried to focus into the distance. It wasn't any worse that putting a contact in, really.
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:46 PM on April 10, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, hearing a few stories from people has helped her feel that while it may be something to have trepidations over, it's not something she needs to feel abject terror about. Oddly enough, kmennie's story of repeated fainting seems to have bugged her more than anything else. Personally I'd rather faint but she's accused me of having no shame or other social worries...

I'd mark them all best answers but it would seem a little redundant. Thanks again.
posted by phearlez at 11:12 AM on April 17, 2007

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