Early last spring, I had a nagging problem with my eyes. They were itchy, watery, burning and red. This started sometime in March. I went to see my doctor, who decided it was nothing to worry about, just allergies. A mold allergy, she thought, because I’d had the same reaction in the autumn. Back at the office, my boss, who has a confirmed mold allergy, was also looking pretty ragged. Thus, I considered the story correlated. I switched from Claritin to Aerius, as directed.
Over the next three or so months, the allergies got progressively worse. I went to see the doctor three more times over this period and every time I was assured it was just allergies and that I was kind of making a mountain out of a molehill. I’d never had allergies, but everyone knows that sometimes allergies don’t kick in until adulthood. I continued on with the allergy medication. At some point eye drops were added to the repertoire. We tried a couple different kinds because they weren’t doing much.
I don’t know how long this would have gone on but it ended abruptly on my birthday. Ingrid and I were going to the gym and then to the spa. I got in her car, she took one look at my eyes – especially the left one, which I could barely even keep open it was so raw and swollen – and said, THAT IS IT. YOU ARE GOING TO THE EYE DOCTOR.
I whined about the $90 it was going to cost and she said something like, “Boo hoo hoo! Would you rather be blind?!”
So, the next day I told my sob story to my optometrist, Dr. Tong. Dr. Tong turned out the lights, took a look through his fancy equipment and said, “I’ll tell you right now, you don’t have allergies.”
I had a form of keratitis (the specific name of which I can no longer remember), often caused by years of contact lens use. This meant the shape of my cornea had changed causing a chain reaction. First my contact lenses began to fit improperly. Then they scratched the shit out of my corneas for three months. Dr. Tong said, “NO CONTACTS,” and booked in to see a specialist.
The specialist appointment was a couple of months later. During this time, I whined a lot and my vision got extremely blurry for a while as the cuts healed over. Everyone said, “Don’t worry, you rock your glasses!” I complained that the issue is not how I look in them. They are goddamn annoying. ANNOYING.
Finally, I saw the specialist. He did not have good news. My eyes were full of “infiltrates”, clusters of white blood cells that had rushed to my eyes to help them heal. Well, I thought that made sense, that’s what white blood cells do. Apparently, no.
“White blood cells have no business in the eyes,” he said, ” that’s how great your body’s immune response was to the damage.” Oh. “No contact for three more months, then we’ll discuss wearing them on a limited basis.”
A limited basis? I already only wore my contacts for stuff like running, yoga and dance lessons. In my heart, I knew that me and contacts were through. If my eyes ever properly healed, would I ever stick a contact in my eye again? Probably not.
By December, the keratitis had gone and my corneas had returned to their normal shape but the infiltrates remained. “Nothing to worry about,” My old pal, Dr. Tong said, “See you in a year.” That’s how long he thought it could take for them to clear completely.
Anyway, the moral of the story is, be your own advocate. Trust your doctor, but not too much. I kept going and complaining, but I should have demanded the referral that would have saved me the $90 to see my own eye doctor and lessened the damage inflicted to my corneas.
Last Monday I found out that my eyes are now completely healthy when I went to Lasik MD to see if I am a candidate for laser vision correction. The infiltrates have cleared but in their place are scars. Scars on my corneas. Completely unnecessary scars.
Luckily, they won’t prevent me from getting lasered.