Rheumatoid Arthritis and eyes and the choices we make

Rheumatoid Arthritis and eyes and the choices we makeEyes. Fascinating. Beautiful. Unique to every person. The colors, the patterns of the iris, and the expressions contained therein. Complicated.

I’ve been having fun drawing Manga eyes, of all kinds. Even Disney eyes. Stylistically completely different and more for me to learn.

Irresistible though, is trying to draw a ‘realistic’ eye. Much harder…much more testing. Some real technique required…but I love a challenge. My art can’t improve unless I try the harder stuff. And failing is OK. Not every picture is a master-piece; each is just another step along the way. Ultimately I want to create art. At the level I’m currently at, I’m merely copying other people’s art.

It’s how I am learning.

Like each new symptom of rheumatoid arthritis is another lesson. A few months ago I had my eyes tested and was told that my vision was at risk. I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s a few years ago, so I thought my red, painful eyes were just that playing up again. I’ve been using artificial tears daily to keep my eyes lubricated for years. It usually keeps the redness and pain at bay.

But this time I had increased ocular pressure (glaucoma) and was developing cataracts. Glaucoma can ultimately cause blindness, so it’s serious. Cataracts can be removed. But eye surgery…ewww! I’m a little squeamish about that. But cataracts are less of a worry. Glaucoma, however, is not to be ignored.

Both glaucoma and cataracts are caused by prednisone.

It gets more interesting though. Added to that, I had a case of uveitis. Inflammation of the uvea , the middle, pigmented vascular structures of the eye, including the iris. The pretty bit I’m so enjoying trying to draw. Left untreated, uveitis can also cause blindness.

So it too, is not to be ignored.

Before I knew what they were, I just called them eye flares. My eyes would be so painful, and so light sensitive, that I would just have to sit in a darkened room with a cold cloth over my eyes. I spent a whole day that way once. My ex-husband had to pick our kids up from school.

Mostly attacks only last a few hours. A severe attack looks like an allergic reaction – swollen, red, inflamed eyes. A mild attack looks like I had a few to many glasses of wine last night, or I haven’t slept. I didn’t realize my eye sight could actually be damaged though. So it’s lucky I saw my ophthalmologist when I did.

So what’s the treatment? Prednisone eye drops. Ironic, right?

Prednisone. The cause of one set of problems. And the solution to the other. Both of them with the same potential end result: loss of vision. Tricky!

I seem to spend my life going around in circles with this drug. And I think most of us who have inflammatory arthritis have a love/hate relationship with prednisone. Ok, admittedly for some it’s just plain hate. For years I’ve been playing the odds. The weight gain is frustrating, but it’s just vanity really. My bone density is excellent. I am on medication to control my blood sugar, and my cholesterol levels are acceptable. Prednisone and I had an understanding.

Until I was told that I could go blind if I keep taking it. I actually laughed. I had no idea, and I thought my doc was making a ‘stop it or you’ll go blind’ joke. Nope. I realized very quickly that there are worse things than having RA. Being blind and having RA. Being blind period.

The first thing I thought was that I would never see my children’s faces again. Or see their faces as adults. Or look into their beautiful eyes and read the emotions there. See their excitement, or fear or happiness, or love.

That’s an unacceptable risk.

So a quick taper back to 15mg is in order, and a long slow taper from there. And regular trips to the ophthalmologist along the way, to check on the rate of damage. I need to get to 7.5mg of prednisone. I know from past experience and many unsuccessful attempts to get off prednisone (and still be able to walk) that life in the couch lane becomes mandatory around the 12mg level.

So my choices are be bedridden, or go possibly go blind.

Fun choices, right? I think that’s the thing that I most would like for normal people to understand. There are no simple choices when you get to this stage of the game. There are no good choices.

So now my hopes rest on one more choice. Which biological I get to try next. But that’s a whole new blog.

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