Dry Eye can rob you of everything.
Here’s how you can fight back.
New patients who come through to our Dry Eyes Clinic can have varying symptoms. But the one thing they all have in common is their desperation.
Most have suffered for years, even decades. They have tried everything and everyone they could find. Many have had to give up their jobs, their social lives and their hobbies and interests because their symptoms got so bad. They have spent a fortune trying to get relief. They have developed anxiety and/or depression as a result of the chronic pain and the feelings of frustration and helplessness. Comments like, “I’m losing the will to live,” and “I feel like my life isn’t worth living” are sadly frequent. Some have required inpatient psychiatric care. Dry eye has literally robbed them of everything; career, friends, financial security, mental health and quality of life.
And we often hear the same refrain. “People just don’t understand.”
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of awareness about dry eye, even among medical professionals and dry eye sufferers frequently have to be their own clinicians and advocates.
So, here are some ideas for how you can fight back against dry eye’s relentless attack.
- Find an expert.
Your local optometrists and ophthalmologists might not have enough experience and knowledge to accurately diagnose and treat your dry eye. Go further afield if necessary for an expert diagnosis and treatment recommendation. You might then be able to get the recommended treatment closer to home. Expert diagnosis should include ascertaining (possibly by trial probing) whether your meibomian glands are blocked internally with bands of tissue. If they are, any treatment other than probing won’t do you any good until they’ve been cleared.
- Educate your family friends so they can become a support network.
Help family and friends learn that dry eyes aren’t a slight inconvenience. Tell them what it can rally be like. Constant deep aching and heavy eyes that make focusing on anything almost impossible. Itching so bad you want to scratch your eyes out. Burning like you’ve got acid in your tears. Sharp pain like a skewer through your eyeball. Waking up with your eyelids stuck to your eyes. Trying every eye drop and ointment you can find in your quest to find relief.
Let them read this blog post and anything else you can find online. Share your story on social media.
- Find activities you can engage in that don’t need your eyes.
Whether it’s listening to music, podcasts or audiobooks, activities that occupy your brain will distract it from the pain and discomfort.
If you can’t go out to socialise, try inviting a friend over to listen to something with you or even just have a chat. That will also prevent you becoming isolated.
- Get help with your mental health.
There’s a strong association between dry eye and heightened anxiety or depression. Not only is it upsetting and frustrating having a chronic condition which affects your life to such a degree, but pain actually causes anxiety too. And anxiety increases inflammation in the body, making dry eye symptoms worse.
Yoga, exercise, mindfulness and psychotherapy can all be helpful in addressing anxiety, but do keep an open mind about pharmacological interventions too. Depending on your mental state, anti-depressants could be beneficial or even essential while you’re waiting to find a dry eye treatment that works.
DON’T LET IT BEAT YOU.