Sunday, July 13, 2008

What is Iritis?

The summer before I turned 15, in August, I started having a problem with my right eye. It was red and unbelievably light sensitive. My mom took me to the doctor, where they diagnosed me with an eye infection, gave me some hydrochloric acid eye drops and sent me on my way. About 2 weeks later, it wasn't any better, so she took me back. They basically told me that it was a more advanced eye infection, gave me stronger hydrochloric acid eye drops and sent me on my way. About 2 weeks later, I was in agony. I couldn't stand being in a room that had any light in it. I couldn't sleep. I was miserable. My Aunt happened to be visiting us at the time, and couldn't stand it either, so she and my mom took me to the ER, where my pediatrician happened to be on call (he was on vacation prior, otherwise I would have seen him when I went to the clinic before). He (gasp!) actually ran TESTS to find out what was wrong. What a concept! He said that it looked like Iritis, which he couldn't treat, I would have to see a specialist. That specialist happened to be in Bozeman, 30 minutes away. We headed that direction and actually started getting treatment. He informed us that Iritis is pretty rare, and usually doesn't come back. He couldn't tell us why it happened and said that they usually don't investigate a cause until it repeats. Because it has gone undiagnosed for so long, it did some damage to my retina (before this, my right eye was my good eye). It took 2 months to get my vision back to normal.

Skip ahead a few months... I was in gym class in school, when I noticed my knee had swollen up. I hadn't done anything to it recently (earlier in the summer, I hit it on a rock while floating down a river, but that was it). My mom took me to the clinic again, where the doctor said the swelling was normal and the pain was "growing pains."

Skip ahead 2 years... My right knee was still swollen (it had never gone down). We were living in Salt Lake City at this time, and decided to get it checked out again. We told the doctor what we were told prior, and she was astounded. She basically told us that no swelling is normal and growing pains do not last for years. After numerous (and often painful) tests, we decided to do arthroscopic surgery on my knee to see what was going on. The Meniscus was trashed. The doctor who did the surgery sent some off to the lab for analysis. This is when I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Skip ahead another 2 years. My eye starts twinging again... I knew the symptoms from the last time (who could forget). I immediately went to an opthomologist. I told him that I thought it was iritis and that I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. He treated it and said that he wasn't sure why it came back but most likely wouldn't again.

(Are you starting to see a pattern here???)

Skip ahead 3 years. It starts hurting again. At the time, we were living in Iliamna, so we had to get on a plane to go to Urgent Care in Anchorage. I told the guy there what I thought it was. He told me that Iritis is directly related to Rheumatoid Arthritis and he would give the eye drops I needed to treat it. EUREKA!!! Someone actually helped me figure this out!!! I was so relieved!

Skip ahead to the present... Guess what? It's been about 3 years... It's twinging again. So guess where I'm going tomorrow. That's right. I get to call the opthomologist and see if the can get me in NOW. I've noticed that the longer I let it go, the longer it takes to get rid of it.

So, What is Iritis? It is an auto-immune disease that causes the iris of the eye to swell up and constrict on the pupil (hence the light sensitivity). It makes the eye look red, similar to pink eye (at the time, my friend's mom's didn't want me go to see my friends.) The treatment for me has always consisted of the steroid eye drops and the dialating eye drops. In the beginning, it feels like I'm getting a sty. It's always in my right eye. To get through it, I would have to wear an eye-patch (Argghh! Hoist the colors!), sun glasses, and put aluminum foil in the windows to keep the light out. It is a very time consuming process to get rid of it. Since this is the 4th time I've had it in a little over 10 years, I'm wondering if my treatment will be the same.

All the research I've done points to the fact that Iritis is usually a precursor to Rheumatoid Arthritis. I've seen this in myself. I had the Iritis before my knee swelled up. Each time I get a bout of Iritis, my knee tends to flare up shortly afterwards.

I'll post more regarding my treatment for this after I see the doctor tomorrow. (Hopefully I'll be able to see straight).

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