at the Water's Edge

Living life and learning all I can along the way!

Rheumatoid Disease Update: The Eyes Have It

Rick Phillips of RADiabetes has put out the challenge to participate in "RA Blog Week" this week. While I'm not sure I can commit to writing a post per day, I figured I should at least get something published! More about RA Blog Week and the list of prompts can be found here. I have a few posts that I will be recycling, and today (Day 2) I'm opting to do a "wildcard" post and choose my own topic: a health update!

It's been a while since I have written a rheumatoid disease update. There's a *good* reason for that: there hasn't been a whole lot of change the past couple of years! My pain and inflammation have remained steadily low on the Hydroxychloroquine and weekly Humira treatment combination.  I do still take Naproxen as needed - but it's about once a day or every other day.  I am very grateful for the time I've had without much pain. My wrists are really the only thing that have still bothered me, and I'm pretty certain most of the pain there is from permanent damage. Actual, active disease activity is pretty low. Praise the Lord.
I was going for a picture that focused on my
eyes, but I think what I got was: Bobblehead.

However, I have had a new development in Rheumatoid Disease (RD) symptoms this year: the eyes have it. This is just one common example of how rheumatoid "arthritis" is a misleading term -- you can't have arthritis of the eye, as it's an organ, not a joint -- but RD can still affect it. I have known for some time that many people with RD also develop Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the body's moisture-producing glands, creating symptoms like Dry Eye. I had never had eye problems before and while I think the symptoms slowly crept up without me noticing, eventually it hit hard and strong. 

My husband and I were enjoying the company of some friends, eating dinner and playing board games. In the middle of the game I had that very distinct feeling of something (like an eyelash) in my eye. I kept going to the bathroom and looking in the mirror, but there was nothing there. But there had to be. I could feel it. Come to find out, dry eye can cause that same sensation. I was due to have my eyes checked since I'm on hydroxychloroquine anyways, so I scheduled an appointment. In the days leading up to my appointment, my eye symptoms continued, though not as severe. The ophthalmologist was confident that it was the rheumatoid disease attacking my tear ducts and causing the problem. He told me that the symptoms must have come on slowly, because both eyes were very dry, and if it had come on suddenly, I would have been extremely uncomfortable. Instead, it was more of an irritation -- my eyes felt strained and tired, sometimes they hurt slightly, and occasionally I would get that sensation of a foreign object in the eye.  The ophthalmologist prescribed Restasis eyedrops for me, which I immediately began taking -- meanwhile the dry eye symptoms were becoming more prominent and now I could feel it in both eyes.

It took a few months for the Restasis to fully kick in, and I developed some other problems along the way. Just as my eyes were starting to feel better during the day, I kept waking up with what felt like my eyelids glued to my eyeballs. They were SO hard to open. I mentioned my eye symptoms to my rheumatologist while I was there, and I now have a Sjogren's Symptom diagnoses added to my medical chart.

And then, my eyelids got inflamed. It looked and felt like dermatitis and my top lids swelled up around the bottom edges. After trying to combat that on my own for a while, I finally made another trip to the ophthalmologist who confirmed that I had blepharitis: inflamed eyelids. I was then prescribed a treatment regiment of eyelid washing, hot compresses and an antibiotic/steroid ointment. Whew. After a couple of weeks of that, my eyes are finally back to mostly normal. I am continuing the Restasis, though don't always take it twice a day anymore, and I am keeping eye on those lids! Er, a lid on those eyes? You know what I mean.

While the eye issues have been an annoyance, I would take that any day over the joint pain I've had in the past.

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Hi there! My name is Dana and I live in West Michigan with my husband, Tom and our dog Copernicus. I created this space as a place to share the things I learn along this journey I call life. I work in marketing and I'm a sort of Jane of All Trades, interested in all things nature, gardening, cooking, exploring and learning new things. This blog is a conglomeration of my interests, hobbies, life and life lessons. Thanks for stopping by!