My EYES Have It

For years I'd worn contact lenses, but about two years ago, I had a very strong instinct that I shouldn't put them in again.  And without ceremony, I simply never wore them again.  Not sure if that's related to this, but I'm putting it out there.

I guess it all started with gusto when I was living at a new Motel 6 every day.  Sometimes, I'd wake up and one of my eyes (whichever one was closest to the pillow if I slept on my side) would be terribly itchy and sometimes to the point of painful.  It felt like there was an eyelash (or a piece of straw, or a needle or a boulder) under my eyelid.  I'd rinse it with water and get on with my day.

I was concerned that my vision was getting worse, too. It seemed as though I was occasionally trying to look through a thin layer of oil.

I would blink furiously, trying to wash it away, to no avail. It was an off and on problem, so I suffered through it while it was exacerbated and ignored it while it was in remission.

Almost a year ago, exactly, I was working at a theater on a role that was incredibly physically demanding. I was exhausted, banged up, bruised and depleted. (Don't get me wrong, I had a total blast doing the play, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat!)  But at one point, I was weak enough to succumb to a 'cold'.  This was a unique cold for two reasons: Both of these things had never happened to me before, but in this case, I lost my voice for a few days and then developed what seemed to be a cold centered around my eyes. I had the normal mucus buildup in the nasal sinus and the run-down feeling that I get when I catch colds, but this time, whenever I blew my nose, it'd force snot out through my eyes! Until last year, I didn't even know that was possible.

I would be embarrassed in public sometimes by the amount of mucus on my eyes. When I woke up in the morning they were sealed shut with so much dried mucus that I'd have to pry them open and scrape them clean.

FULL DISCLOSURE:  None of the photos of eyes are me. I took photos of my eyes, but the symptoms don't show up as clearly as they do here. I searched the internet and found these photos that are close to how I look(ed).

Eventually that ran its course, I healed and life went on. I still suffered occasional pangs of what felt like foreign body invasions into my eyes, and my eyesight worsened off and on. I'm at the age where eyesight is expected to really start failing so I didn't get too concerned about that. And I do live my life like a child that's never grown up, in that I roll around on dirty floors, play in the grass and climb rocks and trees and just generally enjoy getting dirty and gritty.

Not only for fun, but I also do much of this for my work. As a Nia teacher, I'd roll around on a different dance floor every day. Some were cleaner than others. I often had sweat dripping in my eyes and sometimes it really stung; especially if I had used any coconut oil or sunscreen on my face that day. I also work in theaters, which are notoriously dark and dusty and often full of airborne debris from set construction, etc.

Another facet to the story is that I have a dog who I play with, again, like a child. We roll around on the floor and have very physical fun together. In the past, I'd been allergic to certain dogs, but had never been allergic to River, that I know of. And usually my allergy shows up as a narrowing of my nasal passages, not eye-discharge.

Since all of those things are factors that could make my eyes itch or could introduce a foreign body into my eye, each time I felt the symptom come back, I'd attribute it to my lifestyle or a newly acquired allergy and suffer through it until it resolved itself.

All of this has been over the past two years. During that time, I've also had at least one stye in each eye, that I took care of myself with a hot compress and a Q tip.

So this brings us to about a month ago, when I started noticing the pinkness around my eyelids that I'd gotten accustomed to over the past two years was getting redder. And, upon closer inspection, I could see tiny flakes of crust in between my lower eyelashes. I decided it was time to see a professional.

I first saw a general practitioner who said I had "blepharitis".  It sounds like he made a diagnosis, but in retrospect, he really didn't. Blepharitis only means 'inflamation of the eyelids'. Anyone could have told me that if they knew the word for it. He gave me a topical antibiotic and I spread the gel onto my lower eyelids twice a day for about five days. After two days the redness was gone.

I'm now starting work at the same theater as last year when I had the 'cold' in my eye. Sitting in the house, chatting with the director and cast about the play, our characters and the controversial subject matter, I started to notice my left eye was really itching and the cloudiness was getting thicker.

The next morning (today) I woke up to see that both eyes were rimmed in red and both eyes had boogers in the corners, whereas on a normal day I don't usually notice that. Also the upper lid over my right eye was red and so puffy that it made the eye look half closed.

This is a genetic condition in my family. Our eyelids get super full and heavy as we age. My grandmother had to have her eyelids surgically reduced, and my father would have benefitted from the same procedure but he was deathly mistrusting of the entire medical profession, so he never did. I wasn't sure if this new development was just my destiny or if it was a medical issue. I called the Kaiser Permanente Ophthamalogy department and described everything to them. They suggested I come in immediately.

The ophthamologist did a more thorough examination of my eyes than the GP had done a month prior. He grabbed my eyelids and turned them inside out to see under them.  And it was funny because as I was standing at the bathroom mirror this morning, that was my instinct, too. I hoped he was going to do that. If he hadn't, I might have asked him to.

I half-expected him to say "OH MY GOD, there's a colony of termites in here." but what he did say was far less dramatic and more believable. He said my eyes were infected by bacteria. When I described my lifestyle to him, he smiled and nodded and agreed that it was probably any one of those dirty environments that infected me.  But it is impossible to determine which one.

He prescribed me a different antibiotic.  This time in the form of eyedrops rather than the messy gel I was applying last month. I'll drop these into my eyes four times a day for ten days and hope to have clear-looking and clear-seeing eyes once again.

For those interested in this type of thing, the first antibiotic I applied was erethromycin in the gel form. This batch is neomycin-polymyxin-dexamethasone in the form of drops. I'm generally not a fan of using antibiotics, so this was a major decision for me.


Update! I finished my antibiotics and it cleared up my eyes, but I still have the feeling that there's something going on inside my head. I made an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor and she suggested that I get myself tested for allergies, which she seems to think is behind all of my problems. I've been given a referral to the lab, so all that's required now is for me to walk in and have my blood drawn to begin the testing.
I think I may also want to go another step further and get the kind of tests where they prick your arms to determine if the allergies are something other than dietary.
My instinct is that it's either mold, mildew, dust mites or pet dander. But it all remains to be seen.
At least for now, my eyes are clear again.
It didn't take long for the uncomfortable feeling that something is in my eye to return. I went back to the eye doctor and he flipped my lid over again. This time more aggressively. And he found a carbuncle on the under surface of my upper lid. He used a Q-tip to give it some pressure and it burst, releasing pus out into my eye and down my face. It explains why I had the unshakeable feeling that something was in my eye. He said now that it's burst it should be easier to clear up. He's got me on another round of anti-biotics; this time both drops AND pills.
Strangely, he said these antibiotics have the side effect of lowering melatonin, so people (especially in tropical climates) are likely to get bad sunburns. We agreed it probably wouldn't be an issue for me and my cimmerian lifestyle.
I hope to report, after ten more days, that my eyes are clear and my vision is improved.

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