Wednesday, July 25, 2012

No Longer Taking My Eyes for Granted

So, imagine: what could be the worse thing that could happen to someone who lives to read and write? Well, yes, someone could outlaw the written word or something (wouldn't put that past some of our legislators, many of whom I'm quite sure are illiterate), but think physical impairment here. Yes, you guessed it: going blind. Put a fear of blindness into the hands of someone who is, not hysterically so (I don't rush to the doctor with every ache and pain convinced I'm dying -- contrary to what my husband will tell you), but is decidedly a bit of a hypochondriac (I've been known to wonder if that odd ache in my arm that won't go away is bone cancer -- never out loud to my husband, mind you), and see what happens when she begins to realize she can barely see clearly, and her glasses prescription isn't even a year old yet.

You guessed it. That's what happened to me. Actually, what happened is I began to get this weird pain in my left eye that made me feel like I often had a bit of dust or something stuck behind my eyelid that I couldn't get rid of. Soon, I began to realize that my vision was getting blurrier and blurrier. That was last summer. I went to my primary care physician, and he decided it was allergies and prescribed some allergy drops for me to use. They seemed to help, but I still noticed that sometimes my vision wasn't quite right. By the time I went to my eye doctor last fall, I'd found that I could see fine as long as I wore my contact lenses, but that my glasses were becoming useless. I figured it was just time to admit that I needed bifocals (oh, excuse me, I mean, progressive lenses). I got those, and lo and behold! I could see again. For about 8 months.

Fast forward to the end of June. Now, even my contact lenses weren't helping much. I'd get in the car to drive and would be afraid I was going to cause an accident, because I'd blink and would be unable to see even the speed limit signs clearly. Vision came and went, and I could never depend on my eyes. Using eye drops seemed to help a bit, but it never lasted. The pain in my left eye was back, worse than ever, but when I covered my right eye to see if the left was the culprit for my worsening vision, it didn't seem to be. In fact, it seemed that my right eye was the one that was really going blind. Finally, after a terrible trip to the grocery store in which I seemed to lose all vision in my right eye, convincing me I must be having a stroke, or that I certainly had a tumor the size of a grapefruit behind my eye or at least a detached retina or something, I decided to consult with my eye doctor.

She didn't sound nearly as panicked as I was, didn't insist I get to the hospital immediately. Instead, she listened to my symptoms and said it was most likely something to do with my cornea, something causing extreme dryness. She set up an appointment with me later in the week, and when she'd done examining me, she told me she suspected it could be a few different things (none of which meant permanent blindness), but that I most likely had Thygeson's. It's an extremely rare disease that causes lumps to form on the cornea. Despite the fact that my left eye was the one that always hurt, she discovered that my right eye was actually far worse. She prescribed steroid drops, some other eye drops to use between the steroid drops, and some gunk to put in my eyes at night before I go to sleep. She then told me to quit wearing my contacts and any makeup (in fact, she told me to throw all my makeup away, just in case there was something in it that was irritating my eyes. Good thing I don't wear a lot of makeup or spend much money on it), and to come back and see her in a week.

When I came back a week later, already seeing better than I had in months, she took a look and said, "Yep. It's definitely Thygeson's." I stayed on the steroid drops, etc.  and didn't wear contacts for another week, went back to see her, and she then told me I could start weaning myself off the steroids, and that when I was down to one drop a day (she initially had me doing 4), I could start trying my contacts again. Happily, it all worked. I was afraid, despite the fact that she'd told me the three other patients she's seen in her career with Thygeson's all did better with their contacts than they did with their glasses, that I would be one of those who didn't and that I'd have to wave goodbye to my contacts. I don't mind wearing glasses, but I much prefer my contacts.

Happily, I'm back to normal now, or as normal as I'll ever be. I have to keep my eyes well lubricated with drops and am supposed to be cautious when it comes to staring at computer screens or reading too long, taking breaks and using extra drops. But I'll take that over going blind any day, and I will never stop thanking my eyes for being there and working so well (at least, until the next time I fear I'm going blind, like when I accidentally forget to take off my sunglasses when I'm driving a long distance and night descends).