When a Red Eye Isn’t Just a Red Eye: Glaucoma Patient Story

Dr. Friedl and Glaucoma Patient

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can damage the optic nerve and result in gradual vision loss or permanent blindness if left untreated. While some patients have this eye disease on its own, glaucoma can also occur as a secondary condition. 

This was the case for patient Craig Donovan. He developed glaucoma in his thirties as a result of another serious eye complication. His first symptom was a simple red eye, which led him on a 17-year-long treatment journey. Thanks to the help of Dr. Kathryn Freidl, Craig has finally been able to take control of his vision with an eye doctor he can trust.

Pain Increases as Vision Decreases

Craig was on vacation on a cruise when he first began to experience painful symptoms and vision issues. “It was like having vaseline over my eye,” he described. “I could see light and shapes, but the attack brought on an extreme version of blurriness. I couldn’t drive, get to my gate at the airport or read signs.”

He was diagnosed with uveitis, an autoimmune disease of the eye. It causes the immune system to mistakenly attack healthy tissue of the eye, resulting in severe irritation, blurriness and inflammation. Craig received treatment, but the condition returned time and again. Soon he was fighting glaucoma as well.

Searching for a Balanced Treatment

Craig received steroids to attack his eye infections quickly and prevent his uveitis from worsening. While the medication proved successful, it increased his intraocular pressure to the point Craig developed glaucoma. This caused frequent headaches and worsened Craig’s blurry vision.

Craig and his eye doctors began treatment with both steroids and glaucoma medicine to balance his condition. However, his uveitis infections continued to recur, and eventually, Craig’s glaucoma became more dangerous. Unfortunately, he lost vision in one eye due to high eye pressure in the beginning stages of battling both conditions.

After moving from Connecticut to Jacksonville, Craig found it difficult to find availability with an eye doctor when seeking treatment for his uveitis. However, when he found Florida Eye Specialists and Dr. Freidl, everything changed.

Experiencing a Higher Level of Care

Simultaneous treatment for both eye conditions was not easy, as there is no specific formula for balancing medications and decreasing eye pressure. Craig knew he needed an ophthalmologist he could trust to prioritize his treatment and made an appointment with Dr. Freidl. 

“I was ecstatic,” said Craig. “Dr. Freidl has one of the best bedside manners I’ve ever experienced. I’ve seen as many as ten ophthalmologists, and she’s the best.” From the moment he began appointments, Craig felt like his needs were truly met by the team at Florida Eye Specialists. 

Making the frequent appointments, he needed to treat his eye conditions was easier too. “Dr. Freidl has been very good about helping me get in and out of my appointments very quickly, and she understands that I can’t afford to come in three weeks after I call – it has to be right then,” Craig said. “She works me in and makes me a priority.”

He found the patient experience he’d always looked for with Dr. Freidl. “She’ll ask me, ‘Do you get this? Do you understand?’ She’s very helpful.”

The Benefits of a Personalized Treatment Plan 

Over the course of his treatment, Craig has undergone cataract surgery and four total glaucoma surgeries. He now sees Dr. Freidl every six months to stay on top of his eye health. “I see my eye doctor more than my primary physician,” Craig noted. “It’s something I can’t mess with.”

Now, life for Craig isn’t fuzzy. He can finally see his airport gates, read signs and do many things that blurry vision kept him from doing. “I’m always paranoid being limited to one eye. But I am more comforted than ever before because of the relief that I have from my treatment,” he said.

Craig’s routine of eye drops and steriods stops his uveitis flare-ups much more efficiently. “I still do things differently in life because I can’t afford mess-ups,” said Craig. “But I am more comfortable thanks to new recommendations I’ve been given by Dr. Freidl.”

In his free time, Craig loves to play golf and work in his yard, and travel with his wife, Sarah. The couple has two dogs, Lily and Ophie, the one-eyed black lab, that were both adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Be Proactive With Your Eye Health

Craig’s advice for others? Proactiveness. “Sometimes, a red eye isn’t just a red eye,” he said. “Don’t let it go; don’t ignore it. If you have a history of issues, go see your doctor.”

This is especially important to Craig because to him, clear vision means freedom. “Being blind in one eye is difficult, and it causes you to rely on others,” he said. “Clear vision means independence because you have more freedom when you can see.”

Despite his struggles, Craig knew throughout his journey that there was light at the end of the tunnel. He is now more self-reliant and aware of what his eyes need. 

“I appreciate the care Dr. Freidl takes of me, as well as the education that she shares with me. The one eye that I have left is very important to me, and I feel like it is just as important to her, too. She doesn’t make me feel like a number; she is proud of what she does, and she should be!” he said. “I am glad to be in her care.” 

Schedule an Appointment With Florida Eye Specialists

Eye conditions like glaucoma can be easy to miss when symptoms don’t show at first. Schedule an appointment with the experts at Florida Eye Specialists today to stay on top of your eye health with a team of ophthalmologists you can trust.