"I can relate."
"I know how you feel."
These are words that can either soothe or irritate, depending on your frame of mind and current situation. In a place of acceptance and healing, those words might be welcome. In a place of pain and frustration, you might be tempted to punch the person uttering the phrase, no matter how well-meaning he or she might be. Ever said these phrases to your horse? I can't say that I have, but if I had a horse with uveitis, I just might be this week, as I've been sidelined with the condition.
Uveitis, simply, is inflammation of the cellular layer of the eye that contains blood vessels, the iris, ciliary body, and choroid. In my case it is anterior (at the front) uveitis, also known as iritis. It's very painful because every time the pupil dilates and constricts, it feels as if someone's sticking a knife in my eye. And since the bad eye mimicks the good eye (in tracking and pupil constriction/dilation), simply covering the bad eye with an eyepatch doesn't solve anything.
This morning Dr. Brian Gilger (DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVO, an associate professor of ophthalmology at North Carolina State University and equine researcher) explained the horse/human similarity to me: "Horses and people have nearly identical uveitis, which is one reason the study of equine uveitis is important--i.e., anything we learn about the pathogenesis of equine uveitis is directly applicable to human uveitis. The treatment is a bit different, since the human eye can tolerate steroids much better than the equine eye."
Uveitis is not the kind of thing that generally lands a person in the hospital. It's something that rather, depending on its severity, confines you to the dark. Or, in my case, restricts you to the bathtub of your master bathroom, shower curtain drawn and towel blocking light streaming in under the door. (Darkest place I could find!) Generally, the answer to treating anterior uveitis in humans is dilation of the pupil, to allow the iris to relax and heal. Also, the use of corticosteroid drops, as Gilger notes, works for humans, but isn't tolerated as well by horses. If you get a headache on top of it all as I did, the pain is just compounded.
Take-homes from the past 10-or-so days (now that I'm not ready to punch anyone in the face who says, "I know how you feel."): To those who own horses with uveitis, I realize just how important your specialized care of these animals is. I recognize it's a little bit of Hades for each horse, whether it's a single case of inflammation or the recurrent variety. Simpy, yuck.
And, hats off to Gilger and all researchers examining causes and treatments for this condition.
Have you managed a horse with uveitis? Ever empathized with your horse when he/she was suffering from a condition? Tell me about it.