Fears About Aging With Chronic Dry Eyes
They say “the future is always blurry,” and how right they are, especially for those of us with chronic dry eye. Now that I’ve had another birthday ending in a zero, I think about my age more often. Mae West said something like, “Growing old is not for sissies,” and I would have to agree. Things do become more difficult as we get older.
Fears for the future
This difficulty is compounded by a chronic condition that needs constant planning and attention. Mind you, compared to the suffering going on in the world today, I have nothing, really, to complain about. But chronic dry eye makes everything a little more challenging, and I do have fears for the future.
As we get older we tend to accumulate more illnesses and more doctors, and chronic dry eye adds to our problems. I feel as though I have a specialist or medical practitioner for nearly every part of me – eyes, ears, heart, knees, feet, skin, teeth, and a surgeon who likes to go back and check on her previous handiwork at least once a year. And I consider myself to be healthy! I also know I’m lucky that this wonderful medical attention is available, and I’m not complaining.
My optometrist has given me a treatment plan for my chronic dry eyes. It involves two types of drops and a microwaveable mask. I follow it the best I can. Some days it seems to work, and other days I still have problems with my eyes. She has mentioned autologous serum tears as a possible treatment in the future if needed.
Managing the costs
As we retire from the workforce, our income tends to decrease, or at best, stay at a fixed level. The medical expenses just keep increasing, and it can be difficult to manage. A lot of the new treatments for chronic dry eye are very expensive. I worry if I’ll be able to afford them down the track if I need them.
Another concern is the repeat visits to doctors between scheduled appointments. They say “just come back any time if you’re worried about anything,” but they don’t seem to consider that “popping back” might cost hundreds of dollars.
Trying to prepare
It gets harder to organize and keep track of all these appointments as you get older, and it’s more difficult to get to them. This is made even more challenging when my eyes are sore and my sight is blurry. It’s harder to drive, and I must remember to be prepared with my drops and my wraparound sunglasses. I don’t want to be caught out with glare problems while driving or the wind in my face walking down city streets.
I have to ask the dentist to put double glasses on me because of her bright lights. She always wants to hear about my chronic dry eyes – why don’t dentists realize you can’t answer with a mouthful of instruments?
Another thing I worry about as I get older is that my doctors will retire. I’ve already lost one general practitioner this way, and am about to lose a skin specialist who I’ve been seeing for 30 years. When I find another one, I’ll have to make sure they’re a bit younger!
Difficulties doing what I enjoy
I’m also concerned that I’ll have difficulty doing the things I enjoy if my dry eyes get worse. I already use a large font on my phone, and turn on the blue light filter and the dark mode to decrease the brightness. Regular breaks are needed if I am to continue using my devices. Sometimes I have to put them away for the day, because my eyes are too dry and sore. I don’t always get to finish what I started.
The television brightness has to be turned down every evening, otherwise it’s too bright to watch. Sometimes I just have to turn it off and go to bed, unfortunately not to read. That’s out of the question at that time of the evening.
I worry that as I get older I might forget how to adjust my phone, laptop, and television. One thing we definitely need if we have problems with our eyes and our sight, is a good memory! So far I think I’m doing OK there.
Walking is one of my favorite things to do, and I can still do this if I get myself organized with my wraparound sunglasses, a cap or visor, and take my drops with me.
Still feeling hopeful
While I do have fears and worries about my future with chronic dry eyes, I know I will manage. With preparation, planning and attention to my treatment plan, I hope to be doing the things I enjoy for many more years. I just hope the rest of my body holds up too!
Have you taken the 2023 Chronic Dry Eye In America survey?