With World MS Day 2015 now gone for another 365 days, I shared a few words yesterday about one of the things I hardly ever talk about in regards to my own MS: the day I woke up without sight in my left eye, and the subsequent fear of permanently losing my eyesight.
We use our eyes to learn, navigate, assess and appreciate. They help our brain understand our environment and sometimes, as peculiar as it sounds, we use them to listen.
Louis Braille, Stevie Wonder, John Milton, Jorge Louis Borges, Galileo Galilei, Eamon de Valera, Johann Sebastian Bach and many others had eyesight issues. Some managed to produce works of pure genius like John Milton did when he wrote his epic Paradise Lost after he became blind at the age of 43 in 1651. He bent a negative event into a positive one, something that many since Milton have done, and done well.
When one or both your eyes start being a nuisance, you certainly feel apprehensive. I’ve been wearing glasses since age 6, and contact lenses since age 19. I should be well-used to handling them so, but I am acutely aware of the tricks eyes can, and in fact, do play.
Does it scare you so if your eyesight gives you trouble?
Eye diseases are legion, and not every condition has proper treatment. I am utterly afraid of losing my eyesight completely. The pleasure I assign to them is felt every minute of every day. Reading a book, watching the sun set behind the mountains, seeing a flower open during the day, catching those few rays of sunshine in grey clouds… I am often in awe of the images my eyes capture and send to my brain. These images tease and taunt, are overjoyed or full of sorrow, want more or have enough.
Sadly though, eyes also have a way of turning on you and can cause discomfort, anguish and in worst case scenarios, sadness. One of the first MS symptoms I had was felt when talking when a sharp stabbing pain in my ear would cause me to yelp out loud. Other times, I would feel the same kind of the stabbing-with-an-ice-pick pain in my eye when sudden loud noises were heard.
Another symptom was added during a recent day in the hospital where I was once again a test subject in exams for already established doctors. In order to gain another diploma, they had to examine people with different conditions, and some of the doctors saw slight nystagmus in my left eye.
My first reaction? “Ah sure, I’m in great hands with at least 20 doctors to examine me, find out which symptoms I have, and what illness and treatment they could provide.” We all have to deal with eye issues at some stage in our lives and the sooner things are diagnosed, the better. In order for this to happen, we need to listen to the adult in our head and kick out the childlike fear of doctors poking your eyes.
Nevertheless, we can’t give our eyes the same leeway we give to mere muscle pain, for example. As soon as you feel your eyes are behaving in a whimsical manner, have them examined by a professional. After all, eyes cannot be put in a cast. They are precious and literally irreplaceable.
Two months ago, a contact lens went missing while trying to take it out. It felt as if it was stuck to my eye, so I tried loosening it up with eye drops and contact lens fluid. No such luck. I ran a very clean finger over my eyeball, trying to feel where it was. I thought I saw it in the outer corner of my eye and tried pulling it off. Again, no such luck.
After letting the initial stress-rest for a while, I tried again. Still no change. I thought I had it between my fingers, but it later emerged that what I thought was my contact, was, in fact, the outer layer of the white of my eye. And it hurt. Badly. As if having trigeminal neuralgia wasn’t bad enough that day, I tried peeling my eyeball as if it was an onion. Not my finest mistake, but definitely the most stupid one.
I decided to leave it be and contacted several opticians in the neighbourhood, but since it was a long weekend, I had to tap into that patience-pool again. At this stage my eye felt raw, it was quite red and well, an eyesore.
After a few days, the raw feeling disappeared, and the redness was also less prominent. It turned out that the contact lens had fallen off my fingers while trying to remove it, but I didn’t see where it ended up. Eventually, I opted to have my eyes checked out by an optician, and since then I’m wearing glasses a bit more now. I’m still a big fan of contact lenses as nothing beats their comfort, but I’d definitely more aware of how easily eyes can be damaged.
Moral of the story? Don’t mess with your eyes. Have them looked at by a professional, an optician or orthopist doctor in the hospital.
©Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me, 2011-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Willeke Van Eeckhoutte and Ireland, Multiple Sclerosis & Me with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.