Ocular Histoplasmosis, if you are a bird hunter, you should read this.

So it’s been a little weird around here lately. The SmithFly stuff is taking off and getting crazy in a good way. That’s awesome, 2012 looks GREAT, thanks for all the support. Most of my stuff is now SOLD OUT which is a good thing. I’ve been working some crazy overtime at my day job, no complaints.

But the other day I went to the eye doctor for a random check-up, I hadn’t been in over ten years. My eyes and my vision were fine, or so I thought.

Upon closer inspection the Optometrist noticed what she called a “swollen optic nerve”. She was cagey about what that might mean, but Google is brutal and revealed a list of causes that ranged from BAD to REALLY REALLY BAD! Needless to say the Smith house was a little freaked out.

The optometrist referred me right away to a specialist called a neuro-opthamologist, any time you have to go see someone with “neuro” in the title it isn’t fun right?

So with trepidation I went this Tuesday morning to see the  neuro-opthamologist. After a tense few minutes in his office he revealed that it was NOT in-fact a swollen optic nerve, it was ocular  histoplasmosis.

Histoplasmosis is a disease caused when airborne spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum are inhaled into the lungs, the primary infection site. This microscopic fungus, which is found throughout the world in river valleys and soil where bird or bat droppings accumulate, is released into the air when soil is disturbed by plowing fields, sweeping chicken coops, or digging holes.

Histoplasmosis is often so mild that it produces no apparent symptoms. Any symptoms that might occur are often similar to those from a common cold. In fact, if you had histoplasmosis symptoms, you might dismiss them as those from a cold or flu, since the body’s immune system normally overcomes the infection in a few days without treatment.

Ok so now that we have the technical crap out of the way basically at some point in my life, who knows when, I’ve been infected with the histoplasmosis spore and it moved to my eyes creating scarring. The mold and spore that causes histoplasmosis is endemic to the area I live. They call it the histo-belt, as its basically a belt around the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. However it also happens to be present in bird droppings. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you might have seen some posts about the birds that I’ve bought over the past few years to train my lovely English Setter Nick. I cleaned up a lot of poop, from quail and chukars over the past few years.

The Doctors all agreed that there is no way to tell if my infection was recent or from a while ago, aka if it was from the birds or just growing up around here. The mold just lives int the dirt. So just playing around and getting into stuff can give you this issue.

Anyway, if you buy birds, or if you shoot birds, or you raise birds, be careful with the poop and handling of the birds, it might make you sick and permanently hurt your vision. And if you are a bird hunter like me, get your eyes checked sooner rather than later. The docs can catch it and they can save your vision.

Apparently Histoplasmosis is the leading cause of blindness in 20-40 year olds in this country. For the rest of my life I’m going to have to have laser scans of my retinas to make sure new blood vessels aren’t growing behind my scar tissue and threatening my ability to see.

For now my sight remains 20-20 and I don’t need glasses, but we’ll be watching it closely.

Shoot straight and wear mask if you’re cleaning up poop.

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