The objective of this letter is to warn anyone of a complication of polymyalgia rheumatica. The specific complication is a condition called temporal arteritis, which is an inflammation of the artery that serves the optic nerve.
Temporal arteritis can reduce the blood flow through the artery, resulting in complete or partial blockage of blood flow, similar to a stroke, resulting in damage to the optic nerve.
This is what happened to me last August. I detected a slight cloudiness in my vision so I visited the locum physician who was covering for my own physician. The locum diagnosed my eye symptoms as a minor infection and prescribed antibiotic eye drops. I was assured my condition should clear up within seven days.
My vision worsened over the next few days and I visited the locum again. This time he recognized it as being serious and made arrangements for me to be seen by an ophthalmologist in Nanaimo that day.
After a lengthy examination the ophthalmologist rushed me to the emergency room at NRGH, where I underwent five consecutive days of intravenous corticosteroid treatment. Unfortunately, the treatment didn’t work and I progressed to total blindness within the next two days.
The critical message I want to get out is that if you have polymyalgia rheumatica and develop sudden onset of visual changes such as cloudy or blurry vision or loss of visual field, you should go immediately to an ophthalmologist or an emergency room for appropriate assessment and treatment.
Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment within the first 72 hours is the only effective answer. Any delay will lead to irreversible blindness.
Over the last year, with the help of many people, I have learned to adjust to my blindness. I could not have done so without the care, love and assistance of my wonderful wife Mary. In addition, many thanks to my family and friends, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Chartwell Residents Association.