Sunday, October 23, 2005

All About My Eyes

On Friday, I had an appointment with the rheumatologist. I was nervous about this, because the old rheumatology fellow, whom I liked a lot, finished up her fellowship, and I was due to get a new primary rheumatologist. Luckily, the new rheumatology fellow seems to be as cool as the old one. Both of them talk to me like I'm a human being, explain what they think is going on and what they can't figure out, do not seem offended when I ask questions or express preferences about my treatment, and generally act like they respect my intelligence and autonomy. This is nice and sadly not all that common. The rheumatology attending is fine, too, so I actually have no complaints on the rheumatology front.

So anyway, the new rheumatologist seems unusually interested in my eyes. I have actually been complaining about my eyes pretty consistently for about a year, but this is the first time anyone paid any attention. Last time I went to the ophthamologist, she mentioned that my eyes were dry and told me to get eye drops, but she seemed unconvinced when I suggested that this could be related to my autoimmune weirdness. The problem, I think, is that she still refuses to believe that what's wrong with me really is autoimmune, even though if I had the kind of brain cancer that causes my symptoms, I would almost certainly be dead by now. But since she still thinks I have brain cancer or syphilis, my dry eyes were not interesting to her. On top of the dry eyes, I've also noticed that I can't read websites or magazine articles that don't have a lot of contrast between the background and font colors and that I'm having trouble focusing or reading small print. I've had a couple of weird instances where my eyes have randomly swollen up. And also, my eye has been doing something weird that I thought of as twitching. Nobody is interested in twitching, because that's just a sign of eye strain, which is a pretty normal symptom of being in grad school. But when the rheumatologist looked at my eyes, they did the twitching thing, and she told me that it wasn't twitching at all, but rather some other kind of eye movement that is cause for concern. (I really should have written down the medical term. I may have to call her and ask before I go to the eye doctor.) So I'm supposed to go back to the eye doctor and tell her that I need to have my tear ducts tested to see if I could have Sjogren's Syndrome, which is when your immune system attacks your moisture-producing glands. This would explain my various eye symptoms, as well as my ongoing stomach problems.

So here's how they test your tear ducts. They stick a piece of paper in your eye, and it's really uncomfortable. This makes you cry. After five minutes, they measure how many tears you produce and see if you're crying as much as is normal for someone who has a piece of paper stuck in her eye.

They honestly could not come up with anything more high tech than that.

They're also going to do another test where they put red dye in my eyes and run a special light over them to check for scratches on my cornea. I don't think I'm going to get an emergency appointment to do this, which is a shame, because it would be pretty awesome to dye my eyes red for Halloween. I've already got a witch costume planned out, and red eyes would make it much, much cooler.

As a fellow weird-eyed person, I feel your pain. Hot damn, but that paper-on-the-eye thing hurts. It always takes my eye guy about five or six tries to get it on there, because I keep flinching away and bursting into tears and stuff. (I totally admit to being a complete wuss.)
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