Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I'm off to the eye doctors today. Two years ago this would have meant me giving up about four hours of my life.
I am on Plaquenil to help with my Sjogren's symptoms. It is an antimalarial drug that has significantly helped me. You can read more about it here. Briefly, I went off of the medicine to see if it was causing heart palpitations. It wasn't the cause of them so I went back on it. That small amount of time that I was not taking it was enough to help me realize how great it works for me. The downside to this drug is the increase of developing retinal toxicity or a retinal detachment. You can read more about retinal detachment here. An article I read on MedicineNet.com states...
"Studies have shown that the incidence of retinal detachments caused by tears in the retina is fairly low, affecting approximately one in 10,000 people each year."
That doesn't seem too bad, however, I think that the old adage "Better safe then sorry" may apply. The key in taking this medication is to have yearly ocular exam. In the past I was stuck going to an office and sitting around while my eyes were dilated. The purpose of the eye dilation is to allow the doctor to shine a light upon the retina and observe any damage that might have been caused by the medication I am on. The typical exam would usually take me about two and a half hours sitting in the office itself (which doesn't say much about the office I went to) and then another hour and a half before my eyes were fully back to normal. And then of course I had to deal with gritty sensitive eyes for the rest of the day, as well as a slight headache and aversion to the sun. It was just not an ideal situation all around.
Fortunately for me the last time I was in getting my "regular" eye exam for my glasses (which is in a different office) they asked me if I had ever had an OTC (which stands for Optical Coherence Tomography). They explained that it's an easy test that would only take fifteen minutes of my time, with no dilation at all. I found a very simple explanation here which states...
"Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) is a non-contact medical imaging technology similar to ultrasound and MRI. With OCT, reflected light is used to produce detailed cross-sectional and 3D images of the eye."
Needless to say I signed right up for it the next time I was due my yearly retinal exam! I went in, sat at a machine that looks like a ginormous viewfinder toy, had the doctor meet with me to read the test, and I was out the door with no lasting side effects in fifteen minutes. As if that wasn't great enough, the plus side is that it gives the doctor a better view then the archaic eye dilating did. And it more efficiently tracks your changes from year to year.
Here is a link to an image gallery of results from the "eye mapping". And here is a pdf of "OCT Bootcamp". I found it fascinating as I am sure my fellow health pdf nerds will agree on. He he he It covers the explanation, the positives, negatives, photos of the machine itself, the read outs, etc.
I wanted to add one last note about this. Not all insurance companies cover this fully, so be sure to check with your insurance before getting it done so there aren't any nasty little surprises waiting in your mailbox. I end up paying an office visit co-pay as well as a percentage of the cost. Anyway, I had to share this with all of you just in case there was someone else suffering through eye dilations for Plaquenil when they could be having the OTC done instead!