Sight regained after loss by parasites
By Elsa Mejía
The Madera Tribune
The small, furry companions she’d had all her life didn’t pose much of a threat to Madera’s Ana Martinez — until she found out they could make her blind.
Dr. David Kaye, an ophthalmologist at Natural Vision who treated Martinez for toxoplasmosis, said her three cats might have been carriers of toxoplasma gondii, a single-celled parasite that got into her eyes.
“When she came in to see me she didn’t know what was wrong with her,” he said. “She had lost vision in her left eye and I looked into her eye and I realized that if we didn’t do something that day then that particular worm would blind her.”
Kaye said he used a “new” treatment with Martinez.
“We take like a little acupuncture needle and we place this special new chemical right in the nerve where this particular parasite is and it stops and kills the parasite,” he said.
Martinez said her eyesight troubles started about three years ago, but in late February they just got worse.
“The blurry vision started, and after the blurry vision then I started losing my sight on the left eye,” she said. “I couldn’t see half down. I could only see the top portion, like from the bottom down I couldn’t see anything I could just see the top of whatever I was seeing.”
Martinez said she also saw floaters.
“Floaters are like little stars that you see. Or little black dots, spots,” she said. “It was like if you have something in your eye, like a smudge, that is covering your eye that you’re able to see a little bit from the side but in the center I couldn’t. So I just could see whatever little I could from the up side.”
She said other doctors told her the floaters she saw were normal but, when they didn’t go away, she sought Kaye’s help.
“When we did our tests, she presented with what’s called headlights in the fog,” said Kaye, “and the doctor sees this and it looks like headlights in the fog, just like in the valley in winter when you see somebody’s headlights, it’s quite deadly.”
Kaye said that although her case was rare, many people carry the parasite without knowing it.
“It’s more common than people think it’s just that they don’t recognize that they have the condition,” he said.
More than 60 million people in the United States may be infected, but very few have symptoms because a healthy person’s immune system usually keeps the parasite from causing illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Toxoplasmosis may be contracted by eating undercooked meat, drinking water contaminated with the parasite, and through contact with cat feces.
Martinez said she still sees floaters, but her vision is almost completely back to normal.
“I’ve been going to the doctor and everything’s good. I’m able to see now,” she said.
As for her cats, she’s found new homes for them.
“I’m a cat person but I love my eyes more,” Martinez said.