Sunday, December 06, 2009
Don't rub your eyes

Sometimes a residue of tears or mucus forms overnight in my eyes. I used to gently wipe my fingers across my closed eyes until the bits of dried matter fell away. But I won't do that again.

One day I was terrified to see in the mirror the white on one side of my eye filled with red. I hoped my eyesight was all right and knew that as a contractor, I let my health insurance lapse after the previous contract ended.

I found a description of "pink eye" on the Internet but realized this infection has a mucusy discharge. I had this in childhood and realized the symptoms didn't match.

Fortunately, several good medical sites said that a small irritation to the eyes (sometimes even from a sneeze) can cause a tiny blood vessel to break and that even a drop of blood in the eye will look like a huge amount. Several sites said that although it looks serious, it generally goes away in weeks. I can't tell you how relieved I was days later when the area of redness was half the size.

So now when I feel something on my eyelids, I go to the kitchen faucet and let cool water flow over my fingers and gently wipe away anything there.

I had several other a-ha moments the past year or so about the human body and common diseases.

The past few years I had heartburn if I maybe ate a sandwich before bed. Sometimes woke me up. There are OTC medications but just by accident, I found what was causing it in my case. I moved into a new apartment and the new paint smell made coffee taste and smell terrible. I lost my taste for coffee for 6 months. In place of coffee I drank a lot of tea. During that time, I had no heartburn, so I suspect that coffee is a major contributor to heartburn and acid reflux. Just a theory.

People complain about insomnia (trouble getting to sleep) but how many would find the problem magically disappear if they stopped drinking coffee? I'm not casting stones. Quitting caffeine or even cutting back would take an enormous amount of motivation and willpower. I try to go a day without coffee once or twice a year just to let the caffeine levels dissipate. Someone said caffeine has a half-life of 8 hours in the body. I get headaches as caffeine levels in my body drop, but I think of it as a good sign.

I'm just saying people ought to try cutting back on caffeine before resorting to sleeping pills. I would substitute more and more decaf in each coffee pot until it was all decaf. Might work.

Another odd thing happened recently. I was outside reading after a long spell indoors of cloudy Seattle weather. I went inside to put clothes in the dryer and saw a green sweatshirt... but I don't own a green sweatshirt! I wondered if something happened in the wash but everything else looked ok. I suddenly knew that this was the burgundy sweatshirt I put into the wash and that I was experiencing what people with colorblindness see. Colorblindness is supposed to be completely genetic, but I feel I somehow accidentally triggered this vision limitation when I shifted abruptly from bright outdoor light to dim indoor light and for a few minutes, lost the ability to see the deep burgundy color of that wet sweatshirt.

Life is full of surprises. When something happens now, I try to understand what caused it and what will fix it.
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