Sometime around June of this year, I noticed that my eyes (particularly my left) were irritated and a little swollen. It was mostly visible from the bottom, but really all of the skin surrounding my eyes was affected – meaning both the upper and lower eyelids of both eyes. It wasn’t super bad, just mostly annoying and a little painful. It felt like I had a bad sunburn around my eyes.
I contacted my primary care physician explaining to her my symptoms and trying to make very clear that my eyeball itself was not affected, just my eyelids. She advised me to pick up some over-the-counter eye drops from the pharmacy and suggested that this might simply be associated with my seasonal allergies. In the back of my mind I doubted this because I’m pretty familiar with my won allergies and my seasonal allergies have NEVER manifested these symptoms. I also found myself doubting that a medicine applied to my actual eyeball would treat my eyelids, but it’s all connected and I’m not a doctor, after all, so I went with what I was advised.
The drops did help. Some. The redness and burning I was experiencing subsided almost completely and the swelling too, although until recently the swelling wasn’t anything more than someone would experience if they’d had a good cry, so… Whatever.
Fast forward to the beginning of this week. Monday and Tuesday I noticed a slight and very tiny flare up with this eye stuff and used the drops to gain control of it again. By Wednesday, aside from what appeared to be the tiniest bit of dry skin under my left eye, everything had vanished. Wednesday and Thursday were days that my eyes looked entirely normal. Friday morning, bright and early, I arrived at my doctor’s office for my yearly physical – again with no eye stuff going on. I intended to speak to her about this, but since the drops she’d suggested seemed to be doing the trick and there was literally nothing to show her right then it never came up. After all, I would have brought it up and then had nothing to show her and she would likely have said something to the effect of, “Wait till there’s again something for me to see and then call me.” Which makes sense – she’s not going to attempt to treat something that doesn’t seem to be there. We finished my appointment with her joking that she’d be glad to give me a prostate exam (yes, I’m getting into that age group now!), however her fingers have always been too short and it usually ends up being quite the scene anyway. I promised her I wouldn’t feel slighted if we skipped that part.
(For the record, I adore my primary care physician. She went to school in Rochester Minnesota, and I happen to know for a fact there are good people in them parts. Also, she’s the first physician I’ve had in at least a decade who not only didn’t make me feel like I had cooties just because I’m gay, but also has openly expressed celebratory sentiments in regard to my relationship.)
So I leave her office with yearly lab work pending and head immediately to my office. I’m there in about 20 minutes and upon arriving immediately head to a meeting for which I was already ten minutes late. I got to the office no later than 0910, and before 0945 my eyelids felt like they were on fire again. I tried not to touch them and gave them a few minutes for the pain to pass before making a restrom visit, where I discovered in the mirror there that I looked almost like I’d been punched or something. Once again, both eyelids to both eyes were red, swollen, burning. I could actually see my own upper eyelids in my line of vision without even looking up and if I looked down only a little my lower eyelids began obstructing my vision.
I went back to my desk without saying anything to anyone, not sure of what my next actions would be. I had a whole lot to get done for a Friday, so I stayed at my desk and was as productive as possible.
Sometime just after 1700 I decided to call it quits and left the office, thinking I’d just skip the gym and go home to nap. However, it came to mind that I should stop by a CVS Minute Clinic on my way home – just to see what they say. (Sidenote: I’d emailed my doctor’s office earlier in the day, but no response ever came.) Luckily, when I arrived at the Minute Clinic there was only one person ahead of me and they were already being seen so my wait was minimal. The nurse practitioner there felt instantly that I was having an allergic reaction to something – not allergies, but an actual reaction. We discussed everything from my diet to my laundry soap (and everything in between!) and I assured her that nothing new had been introduced since June. She was stuck on my face wash (Neutrogena Naturals line, gel face wash), almost certain that was the culprit. I wasn’t convinced, but again what do I know? Ultimately she admitted that she wasn’t able to treat me because of the Minute Clinic’s overall shyness when it comes to liability. She referred me to a local urgent care center.
Before I continue let me be clear about one thing: If you’re the parent of any school-aged child requiring a physical to start school and you wait until THE LAST minute and then “clog” up waiting rooms of places like the one I went to, you deserve the two-hour wait you’re bound to have. Also, you’re the official recipient of the “Painus in the Anus of the Year” award for being the source of my own drawn-out wait time – when I actually, urgently, needed to be seen.
After about an hour’s wait (which isn’t bad!) I was finally seen. I answered all the same questions again and had a discussion with a super sweet physician who seemed to think, quite brilliantly I might add, that I have blepharitis.
Everyone knows “itis” is a suffix that means inflammation. But most might not be aware that “blephar-” is a prefix that means eyelid. So, inflammation of the eyelid. NO SHIT.
So I have “inflammation of the eyelid.” Great. She basically handed me a packet of information, most of which she didn’t bother to explain to me, and said they’d called in a prescription for me. And then I was sent off.
I’ll include pictures of my glorious eyelids below, but lemme save you the hassle of researching blepharitis for yourself: There are two kinds, posterior and anterior. Posterior deals with the inside of the eyelids and anterior (which is what I have) deals with the exterior. It can be caused by scalp dandruff getting into one’s eye or by a staphylococcus infection localizing to the eyelids. Mine is probably the staph one. Treatment includes warm compresses (sometimes), cold compresses (sometimes), antibiotics or steroid (only prn), and a fancy little “eye hygiene routine.” The National Institute of Health says that blepharitis “rarely goes away completely” and “most patients must maintain an eyelid hygiene routine for life.”
For a while my life will involve washing my eyes multiple times a day with a Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo and smearing an erythromycin ointment in the area where my eyelashes sprout from my eyelid. I started last night, and this morning my upper eyelids feel smaller than they were and the area as a whole is less red and no longer burns as it did. This is progress! However, first thing this morning the Best (Jerry, aka Herbert) advised me that I actually look worse. I think he’s mostly just being himself, but he’s a little right – the swelling under my eyes is definitely not less and my left might even look bigger. I’m definitely lop-sided, with the left lower eyelid being considerably more “baggy” and puffy than the same eyelid on the right.
Fortunately, insofar as I understand it, it’s not infectious, but is more of a pain in the ass (or, eyelid rather!) to the one suffering it, and apparently could possibly be something I’m stuck with for life. Lucky me. Enjoy the pics below, although I think they’re a little goofy and they really and truly don’t do my current state / appearance justice.