The Challenge of Reading With Chronic Dry Eye
Last updated: June 2023
Since learning to read at age six, I developed a passion for reading. As a child, I had much rather read than play with friends. Later in my teen years, I “borrowed” my Mom’s magazines and hid out while reading "True Story," forbidden as too racy for young readers.
My favorite hobby
My love of reading was challenging. I grew up in a small rural town without a public library. I combed yard sales for used books to feed my passion. It was common in my rural area to trade books at second hand stores. You took in two books and received one in return.
In my forties, I became active in my local Chamber of Commerce. Over the span of two years, we were able to open the first public library in my hometown. Today, thanks to grant funds and donations, we have a modern library.
Like many busy working people, I looked forward to retirement. I would finally have plenty of time to indulge in my favorite hobby: reading.
Little did I know that life was going to throw me a curve ball, or two.
At the age of 66, I was diagnosed with age related macular degeneration (AMD). My dry AMD rapidly progressed to the intermediate stage. It began to have an impact on my love of reading and other hobbies. Thanks to electronic reading devices, I could enlarge the text and read with little problem.
Two years after my AMD diagnosis, I began noticing increased blurring. My first thought was that the AMD had advanced. I saw my optometrist right away. After an eye exam, he told me I had dry eye syndrome. The meibomian glands were plugged up. This didn’t allow the oils to do their job keeping my eyes moist.
Trying to keep my eyes moist
The optometrist, using Q-tips, helped unclog the meibomian glands. He told me to use warm moist heat on my eyes twice a day to keep the glands open. He also prescribed Restasis which, unfortunately, did not help me.
I continue using the warm moist heat and a variety of lubricating eyedrops, gels, and eye ointments to keep my eyes moist.
Feeling extremely uncomfortable
Unfortunately, having chronic dry eye has had a negative impact on my ability to read. Having both macular degeneration and chronic dry eye, I am unable to see well enough to read even large text books.
Thanks to virtual libraries, I finally have access to all the books I could ever read. Using my iPad, I can enlarge the text and change the background color, making it much easier to see. Unfortunately, staring at an electronic device makes my eyes extremely uncomfortable.
Finding a way to read
Most people’s blink reflex slows while reading.1 This causes the eyes to dry out rapidly. Besides the typical symptoms, dry and gritty, my eyes become very heavy. At first I thought I needed a nap. After learning more about chronic dry eye, I learned heavy eyes is a common symptom.
Have I given up reading? No, I will continue to read as long as my eyes hold out. I take frequent breaks and reapply lubricating drops frequently. When you are as passionate about reading I am, you will find a way!
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?