Taking Care of My Baby Blues
I have a love-hate relationship with my eyes. My baby blues are my favorite physical attributes, but they like to cause trouble and have a hard time behaving themselves.
When I was young, I had a pesky lazy eye. I remember wearing eye patches, glasses, and going through exercises to train my eye to be stronger. I hated it, but on the upside, I had the coolest Pink Panther eyeglasses, and I thought I was the bee’s knees.
By the time I was 10, I stopped wearing glasses. What was cool when you are five no longer rules in middle school. My lazy eye got better, and I just couldn’t be bothered with glasses that I seemed to always break or lose.
Psoriatic arthritis and dry eye
Over the years, I caught pink eye more often than is normal. It’s highly contagious, and no matter how careful I was, I got it about once a year – sometimes as often as four times. Later I found out my eye problems could be related to my psoriatic arthritis.
Bouts of conjunctivitis
In the summer of 2014, I thought I was getting pink eye again. I was battling a major flare of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and it was while on a trip to Las Vegas that my eyes were burning, red and very painful. My husband and I were renewing our wedding vows with Elvis. I had no eye medication, so I bought some eye drops in the lobby of the hotel – the kind that gets the red out but doesn’t really moisturize your eyes. The drops helped, but I needed to use them often and went through a full bottle quickly.
My eyes were red, itchy and irritated, but something was different about the pink eye this time. I never got the gunk that forms a crust during the night. I went to the ophthalmologist when I returned from our trip.
Chronic dry eye diagnosis
I knew that a specific inflammation of the eye called uveitis was something to look out for with psoriatic arthritis, and that yearly exams are recommended to test for it. (Thank goodness I have never had uveitis.) However, I did not know that psoriatic arthritis also made me susceptible to other types of eye inflammation – including chronic dry eye, and that’s what I had.
Some symptoms I encounter with dry eyes include redness and pain in my eyes, burning eyes, eye fatigue, and episodes of lots of tears following episodes of dry eyes. When I’m in a flare, I need to use steroid eye drops for about a week to help get it under control. Lucky for me, artificial tears that I buy over the counter are usually enough to keep my symptoms at bay.
Psoriatic arthritis and blurry vision
During the past year, I had very little flare-ups of my chronic dry eye, so I stopped using the artificial tears entirely. That proved to be a mistake.
As my 40th birthday approached, my vision became more and more blurry. I had no other signs that anything was wrong, so I thought I was just getting old. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be walking out of my upcoming yearly eye exam with a prescription for eyeglasses.
I told the doctor about my blurry vision and how it would come and go, but recently, it was occurring more often. He put some drops in my eyes and gave me a vision test. I aced the test. In fact, my vision was better than 20/20. I was shocked. How could that be?
It turns out, I was flaring again from the chronic dry eye, but the only symptom I had was the blurred vision. My doctor told me I needed to use artificial tears a few times every day, whether I noticed symptoms or not. He said it was important to pay attention to this to make sure my eyes didn’t worsen. He said we would reassess my vision in a year to see if I needed “granny specs,” but until then, he expected I would be just fine.
I need to remember that I’m not the expert and to follow my doctor’s advice. I could have saved myself a lot of grief if I hadn’t stopped using the artificial tears in the first place. Lesson learned.