* * * * * * *

"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
- Unknown

"That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."
- Handed down through the ages.

"Life's tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."
- John Wayne



Contentment . . . and Histoplasmosis?!

For the first day in several, I don't have to leave the homestead today.  The feeling of contentment that this fills me with is very solid and satisfying.  I am SUCH a homebody!  I love Swamp River Ridge, I love the house.  And, now that I'm working outside it, I appreciate the days I get to stay at home all the more.

I had appointments in the big city, 3+ hours away, on Monday.  The first one took me over the border into Wisconsin to the Toyota dealership I use there.  Bringing desk work, my laptop, and my crocheting, I settled into the waiting area for the 2 hour wait while two new Blizzaks tires were installed on the rear axle of the Yaris and the back door latch was replaced.

I'd ordered two new rims for the new tires, too, so that I can change them out myself come springtime when I switch back over to the summertime tires.  Once the "currently-on" tires were removed to make way for the Blizzaks, the parts manager came out to me in the waiting room to ask, "Uhhh, the guys want to know if you're SURE you want those tires left on the rims?  They're in pretty bad shape!"  I smiled and assured him that yes, I wanted them left on the rims.  He never would have guessed that I still consider those "good" and feel that they should definitely get me through next summer and into fall!

When I checked out, the same parts guy said that they'd all crowded around to get a look at my two removed tires:  they'd never seen tires so chewed up!  He asked, "So, you must live on a gravel road, huh?"  I said that I had 32 miles of gravel roads to drive each day (round trips).  He then said, "Well, the rocks on it must be AWFULLY sharp:  those tires look like nails and knives have been shoved into them and then pulled back out!"  I said, yes . . . adding that every time the road is graded, flat tires are sure to follow.  A huge chunk of money later (new rims & Blizzaks ain't cheap), I left with the knowledge that I was "that lady" who drives over nails and knives each day.  ;)

I know I've mentioned it once before, but here it is again for the sake of illustration:  one summer, when talking to a "neighbor" (that's relative, remember), he mentioned that he'd had S-E-V-E-N flats in one day, thanks to the road being graded!  It's great for the potholes and washboards when the road is worked on but NOT for the tires (when all those pointy little arrowheads of rock are churned up)!

Following my tire appointment, I went to my first eye appointment in about . . . oh, 30 years!  My eyes have been bothering me more and more over the last couple of years, and, in just the last couple of months, I've resorted to buying cheater glasses to help with reading and small-gauge crocheting.  It was a horribly looooooong appointment (I was scheduled for 1:45 but didn't leave until 4:55!!!), but I left with a very comprehensive knowledge of what I'm dealing with AND a pair of glasses all picked out with delivery expected sometime next week.

At the eye doc's office, I discovered that I have histoplasmosis.  And, this is where my warning to you fellow chicken farmers is going to come into play.  "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 . . . is released into the air when soil is disturbed by . . . sweeping chicken coops."  Did you get that?  "Sweeping chicken coops"?  The optometrist said that I could have picked it up anytime / anywhere in life, but once I started researching and read the above, it seems like there is a high likelihood that I got it from cleaning the chicken house.  Could that have been avoided by wearing a face mask each time?  I dunno.  Seems like those little spores could sneak around a mask.


Most people have no idea that they may be harboring this fungus.  The symptoms are the same as those of a common cold.  And, "the body's immune system normally overcomes the infection in a few days without treatment".  However, "histoplasmosis, even mild cases, can later cause a serious eye disease called ocular histoplasmosis syndrome (OHS), a leading cause of vision loss in Americans ages 20 to 40".

"OHS develops when fragile, abnormal blood vessels grow underneath the retina . . . [and] form a lesion known as choroidal neovascularization (CNV). If left untreated, the CNV lesion can turn into scar tissue and replace the normal retinal tissue in the macula."  This is the stage I'm at:  I have the scar tissue.

(Just had to take a lengthy time-out to try to remove a squirrel from the STOVE!  Video of that to come.)

After lots of tests and images taken, the doc showed me a picture of my actual left eye and where the scar is.  It looks like a giant, shining headlight, and it's RIGHT below my pupil.  She said that I'm lucky:  had the scar formed ON my pupil I would definitely experience substantial vision loss!

So, what do I do now?  Nothing.  We hope that the scar remains the size it is and that the fungus (yu-uk!) remains dormant.  If so, I shouldn't ever have any problems.  But, should I EVER begin to experience blurring in that eye, I need to notify her ASAP . . . for obvious reasons.  Amazing what technology can do now, huh?!

All quoted information taken from the National Eye Institute website.   

20 comments:

  1. Thank you for warning the chicken people out there. I had no idea. I will have to rethink how I clean the chicken coop!

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  2. Huh, very interesting ChickenMama. So breathing it in your nose affects your eyes as well. But I agree that you are very lucky to have had it scar short of vision loss for certain!

    So your glasses, are they reading or everyday/gotta have'em type?

    Ain't getting old just grand? wretchin freckin

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  3. Holy crap~! Now I have to worry about fungi IN my body? Time to get out the haz-mat suit for coop cleaning. I am sure that I am loaded with all kinds of weird fungi and whatsitz by now. I will have to have that discussion with my eye doc the next time I drag myself in. Can't wait to see/here about the squirrel in the stove - never a dull moment, right?

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  4. There should be relatively cheap and comfortable masks out there that would block things the size of fungal spores. Folks in the labs where I work often use the disposable ones when working with the lower-level infectious stuff.

    Sorry you got the diagnosis all the same.

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  5. Well, you are no longer a bone marrow transplant candidate, until Infectious Diseases clears you. ;) Good thing you don't need one!!!!

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  6. Yeah (to everyone), I'm not sure how worrisome this should or shouldn't be! I mean, it's not like it's common knowledge in the chicken-keeping world! So, maybe it's a "what are the odds" kinda thing. I really have NO idea!

    That said, I've definitely NOT always worn a face mask while cleaning out the coop - if it's summertime, those things get so darn hot! But, I think I will from now on. LindaCO, could you actually shoot us out the brands of some that DO catch fungal spores? Do they have to be special-ordered or can you get them at Menard's / Lowe's / Home Depot? Just doesn't seem possible that the cheap 3-to-a-pack ones you can get there would protect enough.

    Ms. Apple Pie, reading glasses. They actually offered me bi-focals, but I said getting used to reading glasses would be ENOUGH to get used to right now, thank you very much!

    Susan, I just came up with a plan for the squirrel! I'm going to grab the live trap from the chicken house and bait it with peanut butter . . . and set it in the stove door. Then, hopefully, he'll be tempted out and into the trap (about 2:30 AM tomorrow, most likely!). I'll letcha know how it goes! :)

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  7. Claire, at least it's not EXTERNALLY infectious! ;)

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  8. Been there, done that. Unfortunately my OH was diagnosed when I had a flare up and required laser surgery on my retina to stop the bleeding.
    And yes, I have poultry but they said based on the scaring, it happened prior to the poultry and could have happen during the 09' floods in Iowa, long ago while out playing in the woods, etc. It's a fungus more commonly found aroud birds/flooded areas.
    Most people have been exposed and end up with a cold or lung scars. Radiologist are now trained to know the difference between histo scars and other lung ailments. It's rare that people end up with it migrating to the eye. Times of stress or other illness can cause the flare ups that lead you to the dr.
    Leading cause of blindness in adults 20-40 years old, 90% of those in Iowa have been exposed at some point and the greatest concentration of exposure is the major river valleys-Mississippi, Ohio, etc.
    Remember to keep doing your Amsler Grid monthly to stay on top of it!
    I've got permenant blind spots in my left eye from the lasers and have more then 10 different scars in both eyes. Hasn't stopped me yet!

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  9. Cindy, holy crow, woman! Geez! Thanks for the personal input, too! Ummm, Amsler Grid? My doc didn't say anything about that, but I'll definitely be looking it up!! Thanks!

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  10. COOP EYES! I'm officially renaming it! Wow, I'm glad you found out at least, so what do you do now? Will glasses help or is it just a wait and see if it halts at this stage? Interesting stuff. And you know the auto shop guys are totally going to refer to the nails & knives girl when talking to other customers LOL! Can't wait to hear more about the squirrel...

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  11. Hey, not a problem at all! If you need any help with the grid and how to use it, let me know.

    The biggest concern is if the scars start to "bleed" which is usually caused by the eye creating very fine blood vessels to try to heal the infection area or in times of stress the eye thinks it needs to do something. Most go unnoticed but if in the area of the retina, that's when you have issues. I've got a small blind spot that can affect my balance on occasion as well as I can transpose a number-6's, 3', 5's and 8's---which is a joy since I am an accountant!
    Not a horrible condition, but one that once you know you have it, best to keep on top of it.

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  12. Yes, you can get disposable "masks" at Home Depot or the like, but you want what they call a "respirator", which just fits more snuggly. A mask is one of those loose things that would hook behind each ear...

    Look for something that has a N95 rating on it. You could probably reuse them a few times before discarding them. Here's a link that I found easily, but if you search for "N95 respirator" you can find other sources.

    http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?storeId=10051&productId=100200642&langId=-1&catalogId=10053&ci_sku=100200642&ci_src=14110944&cm_mmc=shopping-_-googlebase-_-D24X-_-100200642&locStoreNum=1544&marketID=51

    They won't work if they are kept in the box, though.

    Hope this helps,
    Linda

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  13. LindaCO just reminded me - I have an actual respirator, I had to use it while I was pregnant and did a project - I will look to see if I can find it and if I do I'll send it your way!

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  14. yes, you can get respirators at Home Depot/similar, but they can be pricey - I'll ask hubby where it is when he gets home!

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  15. Okay, hubby says my respirator is no good because it's been in the tool box for awhile... he is kind of an expert on respirators at work and says that unless a 15 minute maintenance is done after every use, they are really useless, which means that most people just have a false sense of security with them. That being said, he is going to see if he can "score one" at work LOL. Will treating the chickens prevent future problems or is it always present and some people are just susceptible to it?

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  16. I'm a moron, you answered half my questions in your post, apparently I should not read and cook dinner at the same time! Hubby laughed when I read him the nails and knives thing and says you are a prime candidate for a Yaris with SuperSwampers on it, now that would be something for the shop guys to talk about LOL!

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  17. I chuckle when people talk about moving to the country to SAVE money. Nothing cheap about it at all-as you've seen with your tires. But I'm completely with you on why you (we) do. I couldn't imagine living any other way....the satisfaction and peace are priceless.
    Sorry about your eye-sounds-ugh-awful. And who would have known? Good advice!

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  18. Histoplasmosis is very serious... I lost my central vision in one eye and was told it's unusual to not be affected in both eyes. For anyone who is, if you lose central vision in both eyes, you can no longer read, drive, or anything else that requires central vision. When you lose it in one eye, it affects your depth perception, and makes it impossible to keep your eyes lined up, so your brain sees the overlap of what each eye sees independently...Causes lots of eyestrain and headaches. Anyone with "POH" (Presumed Ocular Histoplasmosis) needs to be seeing a retina specialist, and not just a regular optometrist or ophthalmologist. Laser surgery (which I had in 1985) is less commonly used for leaking vessels now...Can't remember the name, but a chemo drug(maybe Avastin?) is used now to inject into the eye to stop bleeding.

    Because of my vision loss, I've done tons of research on "Histo", and recommend anyone do the same who is at risk of exposure, especially if raising chickens. I'll have to double-check, but I believe Histo spores are 2 to 5 microns. I know they are smaller than what the typical dust mask can catch. Also, think about the fact that you get the dust all over you when you clean out a coop...Even after you leave the coop and take off a mask, you'll breathe the dust from your clothes, skin and hair. If I were going to do such a high-risk activity, I would use a "full face piece" respirator that is approved for the particulate size necessary to keep Histo spores out, and then shower outside (clothes and all) before taking the respirator off...You don't want to take the spores inside your house to be breathed in later. If your clothes are wet when carrying them to the laundry you'll reduce the chance of transporting the dust elsewhere or breathing it on the way. If you read about how droppings are removed commercially, they either use special vacuums, and/or wet down the droppings to reduce the amount of dust that becomes airborne. To anyone who has not been affected by Histo, this all may seem overzealous, but believe me, when it affects your health or vision, you'll take it seriously.

    Birds, like chickens do not "carry" Histo...Only bats actually carry it in their bodies and can excrete it through their droppings...Histo is a mold that grows in soil that is enriched with bird droppings. The spores can travel long distances when the soil is disturbed, and remain viable for a long time. There is a list of high-risk activities and lots of other critical information at the link I'm attaching. For anyone who has already been affected in the eyes, you can develop new scars from additional exposures. Here's a link to some info from the CDC...
    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/hi97146.html
    There are lots of other websites that address Histoplasmosis.

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  19. I have OHS.....Don't know how I got it...City Boy, never been around chickens. Have lost most of the vision in my right eye and fighting to keep from losing the left eye with Avastin Injections. Good luck to you!

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