Even though the title of my blog is Veronica With Four Eyes, a lot of questions and comments I get about my eyes from curious strangers, friends, family, children, and medical professionals are about the two eyes in my head. I have low vision, or vision loss not corrected by glasses, and I’ve been asked a lot of questions about my eyes over the years, including what they look like, how I see, and whether the appearance of my eyes is proof that I have low vision or not. Here is how I respond to questions and comments about my eyes from others, with tips for helping others come up with explanations for themselves. Please note that these answers are based on my own personal experiences, but others are welcome to use these phrases for themselves.
“What do your eyes look like?”
I have brown eyes and one eye is consistently turning inward as the result of accommodative esotropia/decompensated strabismus. One of the characteristics of my eye condition is that I can voluntarily “flip” which eye turns in, but one eye is always turning inwards towards my nose. This inward turn is more pronounced if I am tired or not feeling well, and is sometimes noticeable in photos. This is different from a lazy eye or amblyopia, which typically turns outwards and cannot be controlled.
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“What’s wrong with your eyes?” or “what eye condition do you have?”
I know that people who phrase this question the first way typically meant to ask me what eye condition I have. I have low vision as the result of an eye condition (accommodative esotropia) and a brain condition (Chiari Malformation), and was diagnosed with decompensated strabismus as well. My vision loss fluctuates as the result of several factors including eye fatigue, chronic pain, lighting, and activity levels. While my condition has been diagnosed as progressive, I am not expected to lose all of my usable vision over time and will likely always have low vision.
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“Why do you hide your eyes?”
I have photophobia (sometimes also called photosensitivity), which means that my eyes are extremely sensitive to light. Being in bright environments is physically painful for my eyes, and sharp white colors can be disorienting for me to look at as well. My glasses have a dark gray tint that makes it easier for me to read and navigate indoor and outdoor spaces and they do not change color depending on lighting- they are always the same color.
Tinted glasses are also a popular choice for many people who live with chronic migraine, traumatic brain injury, or other conditions where bright lights can be a trigger. My glasses are not meant to hide my eyes, as they are still visible through the lenses of my glasses, rather to protect them from bright light.
“Do your eyes look like blind eyes?”
There are many eye conditions that have visually distinctive characteristics, such as changing the color or shape of different parts of the eye. However, there are many conditions where the appearance of the eye is not affected, and blindness can affect people with any eye color. My eyes look different because they turn inwards, but there is no other difference that I am aware of. I like to respond that my eyes look like eyes, there is nothing too exciting about them.
“Is there surgery for this?” or “would you get surgery to fix your vision?”
I have had two eye surgeries to treat my eye condition, but they were meant to help manage my existing sight loss and not necessarily improve or cure my low vision. Surgery is not a cure for many low vision conditions, and I am not a candidate for laser eye surgery or similar procedures that can correct a patient’s eyesight to 20/20.
Some people consider the question about whether they would get eye surgery to cure their low vision/blindness to be offensive, because they cannot imagine living without their visual impairment. I don’t find this question particularly offensive myself, but also don’t spend any time thinking about cures for my eye condition- I prefer to use my time to research assistive technology and find strategies for living with the vision loss that I have now than think about what-ifs.
“Your eyes look weird!”
I rarely get these types of comments now that I’m older, but this is a common comment when people see me without my glasses in real life or in a photo. I know that they are just confused to see me without my glasses, so I typically respond by saying “how so?” or “that’s why I wear glasses!” I don’t agree with them that my eyes look weird, because I don’t like to be critical of my own appearance.
“Did your eyes freeze like that?”
Ever heard the saying that people should avoid crossing their eyes because they might freeze that way? I had never heard that growing up, but apparently lots of people did, and sometimes ask if that is the reason why my eyes are permanently crossed. I typically respond “nope, it’s just strabismus!”
“Do you wear eye makeup?” or “can you wear makeup?”
There are lots of tutorials and resources out there for wearing makeup with low vision and putting on eye makeup, but I have a sensory aversion to wearing makeup and choose not to wear it, except for film projects that require camera makeup. This is a personal choice and not one that is related to my eye condition.
“Why do you call yourself Veronica With Four Eyes if you only have two eyes?”
Four eyes is an informal term for someone that wears glasses, which is unfortunately often used in the context of teasing. When I was coming up with potential names for my low vision and assistive technology website, I decided to spell Veronica with four I’s (eyes), and came up with Veroniiiica/Veron4ica.
Other tips for responding to questions/comments about eyes
- Avoid making self-deprecating or self-degrading jokes about your eyes or appearance, as these can contribute to low self-confidence or make other people think it’s okay to say negative things about someone’s appearance.
- One of the ways I have become more comfortable with answering questions about my eyes is by learning about my eye condition from a clinical standpoint. Eye doctors are a great resource for answering questions about how someone’s individual eye condition affects them
- People should not feel pressured to share the name of their diagnosis or other medical information- simply saying “I have low vision” or “I’m blind” is a valid answer for most non-medical contexts