A Desert Within Me

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Today I want to address a topic very dear to my heart:chronic dry eyes.

I’ve been struggling with this condition for the past 8 years, and my ophthalmologist (who I have been seeing since I was a child) claimed that he couldn’t do anything to help me as there was no “magical way to cure it.”

After trying so many brands of eye drops, ointments, and gels to relieve dryness, discomfort, and redness, I found Sytane Ultra, which has been a life saver. When I first started using these drops, I felt as if I dived into a fountain of hydration, which was greater than anything I have tried.

But after a couple of years of using Sytane, I noticed that these were growing ineffective, compared to the first time I started using these. After a few years, my eye dryness grew worse, so I was using Systane on an hourly basis, and waking up at least 4-6 times every night to instill the eye drops, with little to no relief.

After a while, I started getting all sorts of eye infections and conditions as a result of my dryness (and contact lenses and eyelids rubbing against my very dry cornea). After seeing my ophthalmologist, once again, I begged for a solution, or prescription eye drops such as Xiidra or Restasis. He claimed that he couldn’t do anything for me, as these prescription medications only work on people with redness and pimples on their skin (I will never understand what the heck he meant by that). In the end, he told me that the only solution was to keep using warm compresses on my eyes, which to this point, wasn’t helping.

After seeing my ophthalmologist’s unwillingness to help, I knew that I had to take matters into my own hands. So for the first time, I decided to switch to another ophthalmologist. But this time, to an individual who was an expert on chronic dry eyes.

I finally met with my new doctor, and I must confess that I don’t plan on staying with her for long, as she’s too focused on selling me products and services. For example, on each visit, she tries to talk me into Lasik surgery, although it is widely known that Lasik is not greatly recommended with people with my condition, as this procedure dries the eye even more.

Anyhow, regardless of her enthusiasm on selling products, on my first visit, she addressed my condition like my previous ophthalmologist never did throughout all these years. From the moment she looked into my eyes, she noticed that I didn’t have any tears. She proceeded to do a tear test consisting of putting some substance on a thread and then inserting it underneath my eyelids for few seconds. This substance is supposed to change color after coming in contact with tears. After a few seconds, the substance didn’t change color, so she stated that I had no tears in my eyes.

After some observations, it seems like my tears evaporate my eyes too quickly. On top of everything, my tears don’t have the natural oils/ointments necessary to stay in my eyes for longer time, without evaporating.

After this, she recommended inserting punctal plugs. These plugs are inserted into your tear duct to prevent tears from draining, which hydrates the eye for longer. You can have these inserted for 3 months, 6 months, or permanently. The ones that are not permanent, are made mainly out of collagen, allowing it to dissolve through time. When inserting these, she applied a local anesthetic (in drops form) and proceeded to insert these with a tweezer-looking object; I was also advised to purchase Refresh PM, to aid my dryness at night.

Few hours after that, I had minor pain in the area, and on the coming days, I experienced burning in my tear ducts, especially when blinking, instilling any eye drops, or other ointment substance in my eyes. I was afraid of getting an infection, so I went back to see her. She didn’t notice any infection, but prescribed an antibiotic. It has been a little over two weeks since my last visit, and the pain and itchiness have been down to minimal.

One thing that I noticed from the moment she applied these plugs is that my eyes finally had tears! I was used to seeing my eyeballs without tears, but didn’t think much of it as part of my condition as this seemed so normal! Now, my eyes are wet, which is simply fantastic!

When it comes to medication such as Xiidra and Restasis, these cost a little over $400 on a monthly basis. My insurance won’t cover it, and it is stated that you must use these medications for a lifetime. If you ever stop taking these, the eyes will go through some sort of withdrawal phase where they become drier than they were prior to taking the medication.

Today, I feel a lot of relief, but I still deal with some dryness throughout the day and the middle of the night, some discomfort when seeing light, and indefinite blurry vision. I haven’t given up on a potential solution for my dryness. But in the meanwhile, I’ll share some tips that have been a life saver as I battle this condition.

  • Systane Ultra is definitely my #1 choice to relief the dryness.
  • Punctal plugs were somewhat painful, but definitely worth the try.
  • After getting the punctal plugs, the warm compresses work better (I actually feel relieve and see increased tear retention).
  • I placed a humidifier right by my bed. It is somewhat cold and I’m getting a lot of frizz, but the moisture in my room does help.
  • Refresh PM has also been a life saver. I only have to reapply twice per night, compared to 4-6 times per night with Systane Ultra.
  • Omega 3 fish oil has also aided the process. I haven’t noticed magnificent differences yet, but it is supposed to decrease dry eye inflammation and aid healthier tear production.

If you are a chronic dry eye sufferer like myself, I feel your pain. If you have any tips or ideas to better the pain and inflammation associated with this condition, don’t be afraid to reach out!