Saturday, November 19, 2011

Steroids and Cataracts

All medications have side affects.  For the most part, we either weigh the risks and take the medication or  ignore the possibility thinking it won't happen to us.  But sometimes, we just don’t know what the side affect will be.  We trust.  We trust our doctors. We trust the drug companies.  We trust that since many others have taken the drug, it will be OK for us, too.  

Carolyn was having a severe case of hives and the usual treatments weren’t working.  Eventually the doctor prescribed steroids.  Over the course of her treatment, she started to experience eye problems and the doctor diagnosed cataracts being caused by the steroids.  He immediately stopped the steroids and her cataracts went away.  The doctor told her she was one of the lucky ones; only 2% of patients who get cataracts from steroids have them go away.

When I went to see my doctor with a bothersome rash, he gave me a steroid shot while I sat on his exam table.  He just came into the exam room carrying a syringe with the med and gave me a shot in my arm.  The rash was gone the next day, but a few months later I started to have vision problems. I went from having 20/20 vision to now not being able to even see that big black "E" letter on the eye chart.  I had developed a cataract and was now pretty much blind in one eye.  

The cause of this one-eyed cataract?  The ophthalmologist believes it was due to steroid use.  

"What" I asked. "Steroids?  The only steroid I had was from a shot I received in the doctors office a few months ago...and it was for a rash!" 

Sometimes the side affects of a medication will not immediately present itself.  Sometimes it takes a few months for something to change within a persons body after it was triggered by taking a medication.    

Obviously it is good to know what the risks are BEFORE you take a medication so you can weigh the risks against the benefits.  This way you can also become mentally prepared should something happen. But to be honest, I was not aware steroids caused cataracts.  And I a nurse.  I was aware of the usual steroid side affects, you know, like increased risk of infection, possible nerve damage, or thinning tissues.  But I had never heard of anyone having cataracts from steroids. 

I do now.  

Experience has been a good teacher.  I just hate the fact I had to learn this lesson by going temporarily blind in one eye.

I now have a new lens in my eye and can now see, but boy, the eye problems were much more challenging and harder to deal with than that lousy rash.  

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