Actually the medical term is Iritis, as in inflammation of the iris, and mine’s caused by an autoimmune disorder called Anklyosing spondylitis. It’s like a super arthritis which attacks soft tissue on top of the usual aches and pains in the joints. AS is genetic, there is one main marker (HLA-B24) and one or two others have been found in the last few years. Some researchers think the genes for autoimmune disorders like AS may have been greatly favored at various points in human history, when any resistance to epidemic disease gave an individual a leg up. If not for modern medicine, my case would have at least blinded me by now and have me halfway to crippled. But from an evolutionary viewpoint, it’s better to survive long enough to sire offspring and go blind in your 30s, than to die as a child from TB or the Black Death.
Back in 1993 I came down with an obscure, painful condition called iritis. It’s fairly rare, and by the second or third time I had it in the space of a few years a suspicious eye doc checked for a bunch of unusual autoimmune disorders and that’s how the diagnosis was made. These days I take a high-tech biologic drug called Humira which controls it pretty dang well, a handful of painkillers and NSAIDS everyday, and various cortical steroids as needed. That’s a good thing, because the symptoms have noticeably worse over the last few years. Like an idiot I ran out of Humira over a month ago, I neglected to preschedule an appointment with a very busy rheumatologist, can’t get into see him for another couple of weeks, and my health insurance won’t let this incredibly expensive drug be refilled with out an exam and bloodwork every time. Which feels an awful lot like another case of an insurance company erecting the usual unnecessary hurdles of inconvenience.
Whether on the Humira or not, I feel twinges of iritis every few months. Sure enough, on Saturday morning my right eye started acting up — every time I get a case of iritis out of the blue, it’s on a weekend, always the fucking weekend, when docs are closed. Maybe because I’m not on the Humira, maybe just because of it was due. by Saturday evening it had turned into a full blown case of raging iritis. Imagine a very painful corneal abrasion that especially smarts whenever the iris contracts or dilates, i.e., whenever the lighting level changes, which you learn very quickly, under that kind of severe operant conditioning, is pretty much whenever either eye is in use. To make matters worse, this flare up triggered a sort of weird migraine in my forehead, painful to the point of nausea, so I spent the last 24 hours in a dark room listening to music. It’s a good thing I have a few prednisone tablets and various eye drops, I got on top of it, fast, and they’re already beginning to work. This morning the headache is subsiding, but my eye so dilated everything is a big fuzzy blob superimposed over the other eye and I can still feel the iritis screaming out whenever I look at this computer screen or the TV.