Personal Health

Aside from the wicked sinus infection forcing me to take gobs of antibiotics, my cornea transplant (keratoconus) from 1998 is starting to fail. I noticed an increase in cloudiness toward the end summer of 2011 during a swimming outing when I started to feel better after having my gallbladder removed. I came up to the surface after going underwater with goggles on and my right eye was gray. Really freaky. It cleared up after a couple of hours, but it sent me calling my nearest eye surgeon. Verdict: sometimes it happens. Deal.

A few weeks ago, I saw my ophthalmologist for a referred visit (more in a bit about that) and the ophthalmologist said that it’s time to start seeing him every few months so we can monitor the failure. He said it’s nothing to worry about yet, but we need to watch it. There is no way to write that sentence pun-free. I expected that at some point my right eye would have issues like this. I didn’t expect it so soon. Until I learned about the mean life span of a cornea transplant: 15 years. I’m closing in on that. January, 2013 will be 15 years. Prior to finding out about that little fun fact, I had been seeing a contact lens doctor who specializes in hard to fit patients. I can’t walk into a Lenscrafters and get new lenses. Has to be a specialist. So the thing that has caused even more distress than the failing cornea is that my right eye, the one with the transplant, will wander inward toward my nose, with disturbing regularity, resulting in double vision and making driving in tight traffic unnerving without major cognitive effort to steer the car and my eye. One of the assistants who saw me when I first saw the contact doctor mentioned that if I have lazy eye and it developed at this stage of my life, that would indicate deeper problems. As in time-for-a-brain-scan problems. Shudder.

The contact doctor seemed to feel that my lazy eye was of lesser concern than the problematic fit of the smaller rigid contact lenses —they were popping out of my eye far too often— and fit me with a rigid contact lens the size of a nickel. This lens, despite its size is actually more comfortable than the smaller, more traditional rigid lenses I’ve been wearing since I was a teenager. It’s called a sclera lens and here’s what it looks like:

121012 scleral contact lens corneal disease opu0102 2col

image from this Mayo Clinic page.


The lens works well, except for after about 2-3 hours, my right eye fogs up enough to make close focus difficult. Even reading glasses don’t help the focus.

So when I got the cornea transplant fail diagnosis, my ophthalmologist kept on talking about something that I couldn’t make out. Then I hit the internet and discovered he was talking about Esotropia. Which is what is going on with my right eye when it drifts towards my nose. I’ve noticed this for a couple of years, but it’s getting worse.

On top of all of this, I have a microcystic corneal edema. I think the edema is causing the cloudy vision, but have not heard definitively. Treatment: I’m using prednisone drops every few days and sodium chloride drops every morning every three minutes for 15 minutes. At night, I use a sodium chloride ointment on my inner eyelid. It’s not as weird as it sounds.

Maybe one day, science will be able to bioengineer eye tissue. Maybe.

Fun fun fun! times.

  • Cassie

    Wow. So sorry. I was born with strabismus and have had four eye surgeries. If I’m really sick or tired, one eye drifts slightly over. I wish you the best with your eye problems.

    • blurb

      I can’t imagine what you’ve been through. Thank you for your kindness. Four eye surgeries. Ow.

  • scott clark

    I was born with strabismus too (as was my son) and have had numerous surgeries. Not too bad if you don’t really know what they are doing. You Tube makes it a bit grosser now that I see what was actually happening. The slightly wandering eye still annoys me but thank you for putting things in perspective. Hoping they can fix your eye again! I’m not Scott Clark. I’m Helen Clark (his wife)! Can’t figure out how to switch it.

  • 051685

    Jon, I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I really appreciate your vision, though not as much as I’m sure you do. I really hope things go well with all of this and that it can be resolved for you somewhat soon.

    I have a friend with Keratoconus – I didn’t even know what it was before I was friends with him. He used the smaller kind of lenses and hated them too – whenever it was time for him to throw them away he’d throw them in the toilet and take a crap on them. YEP. So that told me all I needed to know about how much the condition sucks and how its treatments can be mixed blessings.

  • chernevik

    I would like something good to happen to you. Besides the girls.

    • blurb

      Thanks! I feel good things are coming. I’m hopeful.

  • americanrecluse

    Holy hell, Jon. I thought I was having a Murphy’s Law-esque couple of years but you, sir, may take the top prize, whatever it may be. And for that I am so sorry.

  • PandoraHasABox

    I am so sorry. Eyes are so delicate and so important. I marvel at people, who have never needed glasses and have perfect vision. While it’s important to be grateful for the science and technology we currently have available, it’s valid to long for better solutions.

    Like @americanrecluse:disqus said, I’d also really like for you to catch a break and have something good happen. All these health issues wear on one.

  • Dean Wylo

    Sorry to hear this. In reading this post I saw you had gall bladder surgery, and went back to read posts related to that. May I ask you what, if any, changes that brought about in diet or lifestyle in general, not that several years have passed? I may be facing it, and wonder what’s on the other side. Thanks so much.

    • blurb

      For me, I haven’t had a lot of the issues that are typical. My gallbladder situation wasn’t normal. I didn’t have gallstones, so maybe that has something to do with. I can’t eat as much bacon in a single sitting (without a trip to the crapper in 10-15 minutes), but 2-4 strips is fine. I did lose a bunch of weight because I felt so crappy for so long after the surgery.

      I haven’t started working out where I push myself hard, but I notice that I have to stay hydrated or else I will have pain that reminds me of the pain in the months prior to my gallbladder removal.

      Finally, it’s only been 16 months since my gallbladder was removed.

  • Megan Goss Hannan

    Yipes. Sorry you are having such troubles. Hopefully things start looking up soon. (Ha, sorry.)

  • CJ Hodges

    Aw John. Hugs and I’m hoping some great things are in the pipline for you.

  • erq

    Wow, I have a health blog and never thought about eye care… Excellent post!
    By the way, my blog is open to any idea, so in case anyone wants to be part:

  • Rashmi Srinivasan

    Good Luck. Some of your photos make me go Sigh! Trust that eye clears up or the other eye compensates and your artistry is not too badly affected.

  • Kristin Preston

    Whoa, you and my husband are eye twins. He has keratoconus, 3 cornea transplants in one eye and that huge contact in the other. Plus he’s had various eye trauma, glaucoma, other shit resulting in 13 eye surgeries we’ve counted. It’s unbelievable really. I know more about eye health than any person should and they aren’t my eyes! What he (and you!) go through for just basic sight is remarkable. Cheers to you! There is a world renown cornea specialist doc near us so we feel very lucky. The doctors say my husband should write a book from the eye patient’s perspective for eye doctors to read since he knows so much and could give useful feedback. If you ever need any corneal health advice, I know a guy…