I was first diagnosed with idiopathic panuveitis when I was 15 years old. It's an inflammatory eye disease with no identified cause that produces swelling and destroys eye tissue leading to visual impairment. It began with eye redness and pain. At first, we just thought I had conjunctivitis and started taking eye drops for that. However, the pain became more severe and I was urged to go to the hospital to be checked out.
After hours of testing, eyedrops, scans and photographs of my eye, I was informed by the medical professionals at New Cross Hospital that, if I had not gone to the hospital that day, I would have completely lost my vision in that eye.
It was terrifying to be told this as a 15-year-old girl, studying to prepare herself for the life ahead.
Following the diagnosis, more tests were undertaken in order to locate the cause of the disease. I was tested for every known cause, however all test results came back clear. Without a known cause for my symptoms, the only assistance that could be provided was to try different ways of treating them in the hope that one form of treatment would be successful.
In the past 6 years I have tried different steroid treatments, which all have their own risks and side effects. This included oral steroids, which would severely disrupt my sleep, and I also suffered tremors as well as other side effects. I also trialled injections into the eye, which were not effective. This was then followed by surgery, which involved an implant being inserted into my eye. Surgery was effective in treating the inflammation, but only for three months. As a result of the short lived benefit, I have had to endure this surgery every three months in an attempt to save vision in my eye, and reduce the inflammation and pain.
A result of having so many of these surgeries is that it scars my vision and therefore my vision reduces each time. There are other side effects and risks of more eye issues such as cataracts, which I also had. I had to make the decision whether to keep the cataract until it worsened my vision more, or remove it and never be able to focus out of that eye. This would mean that I'd find teenage girl things like applying makeup hard to do. Removing cataracts improves vision in older eyes but it actually reduces it in younger eyes. I had the cataract removed.
Six years on and the eye disease seems to be coming back quicker and more severe every time. Although I have managed to find something that treats my symptoms for a short period, there is not yet a treatment that will cure my condition.
My vision is permanently scarred and I will never fully get all my vision back, but more treatments for people with cases like mine can be found.
I have chosen to support Sight Research UK as they have the top track record for funding uveitis research in the UK.
They have worked with the University of Bristol, who are at the forefront of uveitis research globally and have had significant breakthroughs in other cases involving uveitis over the last 20 years.
This could potentially help so many people. Each advancement in research, however small it may seem to start with, is worth it - it all adds up, so it's worth it!
In July 2021, Abbie, her cousin, step-father and step-brother are planning to take on a 25 mile walk from New Cross Hospital Eye Department to Kidderminster. The team are raising funds towards uveitis research projects in the hope that new treatments will be found for people like Abbie.
You can sponsor Abbie here.