This year for the first time in about four years, I went to get my eyes checked so I could get new glasses. I went to the mall and got the battery of regular tests from puffs of air to pictures of the inside of my eyes and was fitted for a new prescription. The most important of these tests for me this year was the photo of the inside of my eye and what was found.
What my optometrist told me after I was fitted for glasses made my jaw drop. She told me I have a nevus. I have a what?? A nevus is a mole and this mole is on the inside of my eye. She explained to me that there is a part of your eye called the macula that is supposed to be a dark area, but if you have other dark areas, they are not supposed to be there. Some people have these in their iris which come across as flecks of different colors.
How do you get a nevus? Just like a nevus on your skin, they can come from sun exposure and can present in different places. Most of these freckles don’t need treatment and only need to be observed annually by a provider, but it’s important to know they’re there. She let me know that most nevi are benign. Thank goodness!
While most nevi do not transform into Melanoma, it is a possibility. There is no way to treat this type of Melanoma and removal of the eye is a possible outcome. I was not very happy when she told me this, and I felt a bit ashamed. What had I done wrong? Was it all those times running without sunglasses? Was it the beach days where I didn’t want the raccoon eye tan lines? What had happened in the last four years that caused this to show up? I’ll never know, but now along with being more diligent with my polarized sunglasses (aka super cool Goodr glasses), I need to make sure I see the optometrist on a yearly basis so it can be monitored just like a mole on my skin.
I think back to all the times I walked around outside squinting because I didn’t have cute glasses or running with just a hat (“My face is shielded!”, she says with her eyes closed). It is extremely important to wear protective, UV blocking sunglasses on a day to day basis, just like sunscreen. Living in Florida, the sun is in full force all the time. I’ve started to make sure that even doing the small things, like walking my dogs around the block, my eyes are covered up. One thing I didn’t think about often was glare and reflection. My favorite treadmill at the gym has a constant glare from the sun in the big window I love to stare out of while I suffer through intervals. I’m now the girl who wears sunglasses inside to run.
It might be funny to some people, just like wearing a long sleeve shirt in the summer but covering up and protecting yourself against the UV rays are things I can’t take for granted anymore. Taking care of my eyes wasn’t on the top of my list like taking care of my skin, even though I was squinting in classrooms. I always remember my parents and teachers telling me I can’t look at that sun because it’ll damage my eyes, but I thought that meant going blind, not getting a potentially cancerous mole. Sometimes we find out these things so we can help educate others from our stories.
I hope you pick up some new polarized sunglasses and WEAR them every time you’re out in the sun. Go see your eye doctor! Cover up buttercup! It’s important!
Written by Hilary Schafer, Siren Luminary
Follow Hilary on Instagram! @hilaryelisabeth