How I see it … conflicting diagnosis

For 10 years I have thought that one of my eye conditions was narrow or closed angle glaucoma with episodes of acute angle closure. As a nurse and academic I have been happy in my knowledge of this disease process, signs and symptoms of angle closure glaucoma. The literature and clinic letters support my assumption of this diagnosis and am happy with identifying signs and symptoms and at times can guess my own intraocular pressure from the way I am feeling.

Normal intraocular pressure is 11-22 mmHg, my own experience, has been that at 20 mmHg my eye is irritated, I develop moderate eye pain at around 25 mmHg, I start vomiting and my cornea begins to opacify due to lack of oxygen at 30 mmHg and once the pressure reaches 60 mmHg the pain is to unbearable to move.

A month ago I was informed I had normal tension glaucoma, in other words damage to the optic nerve and field loss are evident at normal eye pressure, along with this diagnosis I started different eye drops.

On review several week later, I was informed I had open angle glaucoma. My understanding of the pathophysiology of glaucoma was that these two mechanisms do not usually co-exist. I questioned this and was informed that this is very unusual.

Firstly I reviewed a video to ensure my understanding of glaucoma was correct.

After searching literature there is little information on people who have both open angle and angle closure glaucoma. There is a type of glaucoma called mixed glaucoma but this appears very little after the 1970s in basic literature searches and does not match my presentation.

Over the last week I have been trying to fit symptoms and knowledge with these new diagnosis. What frustrated me is that these diagnosis do not generally co-exist. What this has reminded to me is the need we have as humans to categorise things such as these diagnosis to understand them and that medical science is not black and white.

It has also illustrated that this is an uncomfortable place to be outside of the “logical” or “normal” paradigm. As a nurse and academic I consider myself knowledgable, however, if I did not have these skills to unpack this or realisation that medical science is fluid this could be quite intimidating or even “scary”. This has reminded me of what our patients face without knowledge or insight into healthcare system. It is a timely reminder of the power imbalance that knowledge or lack of knowledge can influence.