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Improved Vision at Long Last

Photo of Mass. Eye and Ear Communications by Mass. Eye and Ear Communications

A drive to keep up with surgical advances for Duane’s syndrome led Mass. Eye and Ear patient Lisa Rivero to pursue life-changing surgery to correct double vision from the rare eye movement disorder.

To many of us, the difference between these two photographs is hardly noticeable…

Before-After
Photography courtesy of Lisa Rivero. The photo on the left was taken in 2013, prior to Lisa’s surgery for Duane’s syndrome. The photo on the right was taken in 2016, just a few months following surgery.

But for Lisa Rivero, the smiling face staring straight into the camera (on the right) represents a long-awaited leap of faith she took by having surgery to correct an eye movement disorder this past May.

Lisa was born with a rare condition known as Duane’s syndrome, which limited her right eye’s ability to track horizontally from left to right. While she could move her right eye inward toward her nose, she could not move it outward toward her ear. Her condition evaded diagnosis as she grew up in South Dakota, but it was later discovered by an ophthalmologist she saw while in college in Milwaukee, where she lives and works in the publishing industry today.

Living with Duane’s syndrome

While the condition was hardly noticeable at a young age, in Lisa’s case, her right eye progressively turned slightly inward, which began to cause some double vision. She learned to compensate for the double vision by turning her head to the right (as seen in the 2013 photo showing Lisa turning her head slightly, to allow her to look straight at the camera).

For years, it seemed that the head turn was the only intervention possible for her, and physicians assured her that her condition would very likely not get any worse.

But her own experience seemed to contradict this, and, as a writer and scholar herself, Lisa judiciously kept up with advances in neuro-ophthalmology. One day, she stumbled upon a 1995 article in the journal Eye, which suggested that similar cases do, in fact, worsen with age. At that time, she began to explore her options for surgery a little more seriously.

“I just knew it was getting progressively worse, and I started to imagine what it might be like when I’m 70 or 80,” Lisa said. “There were times when my neck hurt, and it was getting harder to have a good range of vision while driving.

As a writer, book indexer and owner of a small publishing company, she began to notice considerable neck pain during the reading-intensive aspects of her job.

“Each year, I read about 50-70 nonfiction books online as part of my job,” Lisa said. “As you can imagine, if you’re reading on a computer screen and your head is constantly turned about 30 degrees to the right, it can get quite uncomfortable.”

Seeking treatment at Mass. Eye and Ear

Trusted friends and family in the Boston area led her to the Neuro-Ophthalmology Service at Mass. Eye and Ear, where she had surgery to correct her right eye’s movement with Dr. Dean Cestari. The results of the surgery were instantly apparent.

“Immediately, there was a difference — that part bowled me over,” she said. “As soon as it was over, I could look almost clearly straight ahead. Weeks later, I’m noticing that driving is much easier, I have fewer headaches and I can now wear progressive glasses, which I could not do before.”

For more on Lisa’s experience, read her own blog post published shortly after surgery.

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