Charlie does not wear glasses, but we see an opthamologist regularly because, well, that is just a given when you have Down Syndrome.
We can't take him to just any opthamologist at this point. We need a doctor with mad kids-who-won't-cooperate skillz. At this point Charlie could identify pictures on a chart, but even if he feels like cooperating (which is unpredictable), there is just no guarantee that he would (1) identify them correctly (leaving us to wonder if he sees them or not), or (2) launch into his little comedy routine where he identifies everything as "grapes!" followed by hilarious laughter. Very cute, but not helpful.
Lucky for us Dr. Paul rolls into town every few months to do a clinic for children with special opthamology needs. Our appointment was on Saturday. Charlie did great.
The kids who come to the clinic first go back for their initial check-in with the nurse, who ambushes them with a squirt bottle of the pupil dilator stuff (that would be the pharmaceutical name), then they are sent back out to play in the waiting room until their turn with the doctor. There were two other little boys waiting at the same time as us, both about Charlie's age. Thank goodness there were plenty of cars. They were cute, rubbing their little eyes, each one of them talking with interest about getting their eyes squirted. "Did you get your eyes squirted?" "Yeah, that nurse squirted me, too!" "Are you going to get squirted?"
So, Charlie's appointment went great. He continues to be mildly far-sighted, and we are told this is plenty normal and we need not go back for another two years. Nice!
As the doctor peered into Charlie's eyes with his flashlight and mirrors, he begins to say, "I need to tell you that children with Down Syndrome are extremely prone to Blepharitis, in fact Charlie has it right now. You can see how his eyelids are a bit red and puffy..."
Blepharitis. That's a new one, I think.
He goes on to tell me Blepharitis is not a big deal. He likens it to having dandruff. It is a bacterial infection in the eyelid/eyelash area. It causes the eye to be itchy and the eyelid to be reddish and puffy. The treatment?
Treatment is ongoing eyelid/lash hygiene. "Get yourself some tear free shampoo (got it!) and shampoo Charlie's eyelashes and eyebrows every time you wash his hair. (say whaaa?!) He will need to learn to do this, and it will be ongoing hygiene for the rest of his life."
So, this is a pretty easy treatment. I mean, of all the possible health issues on the health issue list for Down Syndrome, this one is cake. But washing Charlie's hair... It's dreadful. He is so sensitive to water on his head, face, and neck. I could probably count on one hand the number of times we have had a tears and scream free hair-washing. Shampooing his eyes? Oh goodie.
Since last Saturday we have only had the guts to try it once. It wasn't as bad as we thought. (Well, Ray was the one who did it, so for me, it wasn't bad at all!) So, that is a good start. And hey, maybe having ones eyes shampooed will make washing ones hair seem less tragic, right? Plus, I can't imagine that it feels great to have chronically itchy, puffy, irritated eyes. I thought they were just "like that". Who knew?