Teen goes blind from sinus problem

June 22, 2009 2:44:49 PM PDT
Houstonians are no strangers to allergies. And many of us understand how miserable they can make you feel. But that's nothing compared to what a Houston teenager experienced with his allergies. He went blind.

Ray Sanders is big man on Waltrip High School's campus, but this 17-year-old student-athlete's promising future was almost derailed by a very rare problem. It was one that's linked to something very familiar to many Houstonians -- a sinus infection. But Ray's problem took an extreme turn.

"We were on our way to get a haircut and he said, 'Mom, I can't see that car,'" said his mother Donna Sanders.

"I could feel the pressure over my head and then I would lose total sight in my left eye," Ray said.

Ray was blind in his left eye. He was suffering from allergic fungal rhinosinusitis.

"Rhinosinusitis is very common," said Dr. Martin Citardi with the Memorial Hermann-TMC. "But the sudden loss of vision due to rhinosinusitis is very rare. I've seen perhaps a handful of cases over the course of my career."

Ray's problem stemmed from an inflammation in the sinuses that caused a thick buildup of debris which led to his eye problems.

"It expands the sinuses, dissolves away bone and starts pushing on neighboring structures," Dr. Citardi said. "And in Ray's case, those neighboring structures were the eye and optic nerve."

Luckily for Ray, the surgery to clean out his sinus area worked and the vision in his left eye was restored.

"His allergic rhinosinusitis will need additional treatment," said Dr. Citardi. "It's a chronic, inflammatory condition, but his vision is back to normal, playing high school football again. He's back in school. He's doing great."

Which makes his mom and football coach very happy.

"He catches the ball with his hands now," said his coach Anthony Zuccarini. "It's just like you're supposed to."

"When I look in my son's eyes now, I can see just how beautiful they are," his mother said.

"Everything's a lot better," Ray said. "I'm relieved. My mom's relieved. Everything's good."

Dr. Citardi says the condition that affected Ray Sanders seems to be more common in the southern part of the United States. If you have symptoms of congestion and nasal drainage, don't be alarmed. But when it occurs in conjunction with other things like vision trouble, severe pain and nose bleeds, he says see a doctor immediately.


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