A World of Blue

A World of Blue

Jul 05, 2012

I’ve been providing eye care to patients since 1993, and it’s always fun hearing the unusual ways patients describe things.  The medical world and all of its sub-specialties and syndromes and conditions can be overwhelming to a patient trying to find the right terminology.  The eye care field is one of those sub-specialties, and it’s full of gnarly anatomical terms and fancy four-syllable Latin names for who knows what.  It’s hard enough for us doctors to remember all of our anatomy, physiology and pharmacology terms.  So I’m constantly impressed by the creative words and ideas I hear every day.

For example, a patient having her cataracts evaluated said that she had Cadillac’s in her eyes.   Another patient with an astigmatic correction in her contact lenses said I needed to know that she had “those stigmas in both eyes.”

We’re all so focused on looking at our world in one way.  One way only.  Because that’s the way we’ve always looked at things, right? We live inside our little boxes that we know everything about.  But then someone comes along and dares to think outside that box!  Well, I think I have the most insightful and inquisitive patients!  Especially kids, they come up with the most original and downright profound questions for me.

For example, one day I was examining a woman’s eyes and I commented on her pretty blue eyes to her daughter who was patiently watching from a chair nearby.

Then the little girl asked, “Do people with blue eyes see a lot more blue in their world than other people do?”

“Wow.  That’s a deep question,” I replied.  How do kids come up with these questions?  Though we know blue-eyed people don’t see more blue, it’s still a terrific question from a six-year old. So let’s take a closer look.

When you look at your eyes in the mirror, the colored part you see is your iris.  The color of your eyes is determined by your parents’ eye color. The iris separates the front portion of your eye from the back and, along with pretty colors, it has blood vessels, nerves and muscles that can make it get bigger and smaller.  The black circle in the middle is your pupil and it’s really a hole!  That hole is where you look out into your world, like a window.  As your iris relaxes, your pupil gets bigger, like gathering back the two panels of a curtain. And as you focus on a bug on your nose, your iris muscles constrict and your pupil gets tiny. It’s much like how the aperture of a camera works.

”Your blue eyes are only blue on the front side where you can see them in the mirror,” I told her.

So, do you see more blue when you have blue eyes?  Or more hazel when you have hazel eyes? The answer is no. It’s kind of like being a passenger in a plane that’s painted orange.  If you slide the window shade up and look out, you don’t see a lot more orange because the plane is painted orange.  But coming up with the question itself means that little girl was taking her mind into the inner workings of an eye and trying to make sense of the intricacies God made a long time ago.  Good job!

Keep those questions coming!

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