A Needle in the Eye

A couple of years into the land of autoimmune eye disease, a new doc came to town…well, Bend anyway, which is about 50 miles from where I live.  He was a retinologist, or a retina doc. By this time, I had already freaked a few doctors out.  They didn’t know what to call what was going on with me because it didn’t fully fit any criteria.  I guess my white blood cells are sort of like the rest of me and don’t really like to follow rules.  But war, and attacking someone?  That’s just mean!  And that is exactly what my white blood cells do!

A trip back up to Casey Eye Institute at OHSU led to a new diagnosis of Pars Planitis.

The swelling, or attack of my white blood cells had begun in the front of my eye, but had moved to the center into an area called the vitreous.  The vitreous gets flooded with these rogue white blood cells, causes you to see all kinds of stuff floating around, and blurs your vision.  For me the blurriness is connected with a foggy, cloudy effect. Pars planitis needs to be treated quickly or you can wind up with permanent vision loss.

(For more info on Pars Planitis click here: http://www.uveitis.org/patients/support/parsplantis-org.

Online I read a lot about pars planitis, and I read about getting stuck in the eye with a needle. I’d signed up for a couple of different forums and soon realized there were lots of people who were pretty traumatized by what was happening to them.  After reading, I was really scared of the whole needle idea.

When my new doc, the retinologist, suggested an injection and a course of oral steroids, it was terrifying.  A needle in the eye?  Who does that?  Most people don’t even want anyone touching their eye, let alone stabbing a needle into it.  But, I didn’t want to go blind either, and if this was the best treatment, well, then I would put on my big girl pants and go for it.

My first time out, a nurse stood beside me while my doc got things prepped.  She patted my shoulder and asked if I was okay.  Okay?  Are you kidding me?  Of course I wasn’t okay, I was about to willingly let someone poke me in the eye with a needle.

Clutching tight a tissue in one hand, I gripped the chair arm hard with the other.  There were a couple of eye drops first, then cotton swabs with a numbing solution on them.  The cotton swabs were pushed hard inside the eyelid and the bottom rim of the eye.  Then we waited a few minutes for the eye to get numb.

A good indicator of “It’s about to be show time!”, occurred when the doc drew  the med from the vile into the needle and flicked it.  Next he adjusted a bright light above my head and told me to turn my head slightly and then look down toward my shoulder.  “A small pinch,” he said, the signal that the needle was being pushed in.

The medication in the eye feels like pressure to me, it doesn’t wiggle around or slosh, it just sort of makes my eye feel tight and bigger.  About half way through the injection my doc asks me if I’m doing alright.  And the answer really is yes.

For me, the most uncomfortable part of that process is the pressure from the cotton swabs.  It’s later on that it depends.

On the way home, I usually wear dark glasses and put the seat back.  My husband always drives me to these appointments.  By the end of the forty-five minute drive home, I have a pretty good idea about how the shot is going to go.  Sometimes I have a headache, for which I take a Tylenol (you can’t take Aleve or Ibuprofen with most anti-inflammatory medications).

A side note:  Don’t try to go do things, like shopping at Costco after a shot in your eye.  The lights will kill you, your eye will water like crazy, and it’s just plain dumb.  I know…because I have done this.

As the numbing agents begin to wear off, the eye feels tender and scratchy beginning that afternoon or  evening and into the next day.  It’s hard to look at a computer screen and sometimes light even the following day, so I usually plan to take it off from work.

The worst side effect that I have experienced is a bubble or blister.  Sometimes the medication forms a small bubble underneath the surface of the eye.  It pops up, just like a blister would on your heal, and it’s irritating.  If I had to rate it, it’s not the worst pain I’ve ever had, like giving birth, but it does hurt and makes it hard to focus on anything. It’s sore, makes your eye water, and feels kind of like you’ve got a foreign object sticking out of your eye with sand rubbing on it.

All in all though, a needle in the eye is not that bad, and when they work, which they did very well in the beginning for me, it is so worth it.  When my vision is blurry and goes from blurred and cloudy to bright and crisp, it’s a great experience.

With this crazy, unpredictable disease, the days when I can see crystal clear because of a needle in my eye are days that I am thankful for researchers and doctors who have studied hard and long, because all of their work has certainly been beneficial to me.



Please…feel free to ask a question.  Your comment or sharing a thought is also welcome.

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