One woman's story of living with - and managing - glaucoma
Being diagnosed with a chronic illness can be overwhelming, and being diagnosed with two chronic illnesses back-to-back can feel like a double-whammy. This was the case for Denise Osegueda, a resident of Sacramento, Calif. who at 46 was diagnosed with sarcoidosis and soon afterward, glaucoma.
"I'd been to so many doctors for sarcoidosis-related tests, I didn't think a routine eye exam would be a big deal. But then the optometrist said the pressure inside my right eye was 45 – that's about four times higher than it should have been! He asked if I had a headache or had been vomiting, but I didn't have any symptoms."
"I would have been blind, my sight was going that fast!" Denise Osegueda
Her optometrist immediately sent her to see an ophthalmologist and even offered to drive her there. They found that the sarcoidosis, a disease in which abnormal groups of inflammatory cells form in the organs, had affected primarily her eyes and chest. Her eyes responded by increasing their internal pressure, called intraocular pressure, which had begun to damage her optic nerve.`
"I get emotional every time I think about it – I would have been blind, my sight was going that fast!"
She started seeing her ophthalmologist every day and was soon referred to Michele Lim, M.D., an ophthalmologist with specialized training in the treatment of glaucoma. Dr. Lim recommended surgeries to help preserve Denise's sight and manage her glaucoma.
"We implanted something called a 'tube shunt' or glaucoma drainage device into each eye. These implants help provide extra drainage of fluid inside the eye to help lower eye pressure," said Dr. Lim. "If Denise hadn't kept her regular eye exam, it is likely she would have gone blind. Because her glaucoma was caught early enough, we've had options, such as these surgeries and medications, which have helped her keep her eye sight."
Denise's ability to manage her glaucoma has prepared her to find the silver lining in other eye conditions she's experienced. When she developed cataracts, she was happy to trade in the glasses she'd worn since second grade for the intraocular lenses she got during cataract surgery and she now only needs glasses for occasional reading. When she discovered her sarcoidosis had caused macular edema that would also require eye drops, she was already well-versed in taking eye drops and integrated it into her routine.
More than ten years since her diagnosis, Denise now gives herself medicated eye drops four times a day – a practice she has integrated into her daily routine. She has lost much of her peripheral (side) vision, but she's able to keep her independence and care for her aging parents – things she would have struggled with if she'd lost her vision completely. She even takes on new challenges. Last year she ran her first half-marathon and soon she hopes to tackle some ski slopes.
"Glaucoma can be a roller coaster, but I would advise anyone living with it to embrace it," says Denise. "The first step, of course, is to keep your ophthalmologist appointments so you can be diagnosed as early as possible. Once you have been diagnosed, don't let it get you down – you may have to retrain yourself to keep up with it, it's a new part of your daily routine, but it's manageable."