A woman runs on a winding path towards the light.

Chronic Dry Eye Patient Spotlight: Julie

My journey with getting diagnosed with chronic dry eye has been a long ride. I remember my first reaction like yesterday, and I remember waking up, and I couldn't see anything. My eyes were very swollen, and both my eyes just looked like I got hit by a truck to my face.

A long process getting diagnosed

It has been a very long and painful process to get through, so I think from my first reaction to where I am now. From there, my eyes calmed down after a few days, and it just went away. My eyes will break out with discharge, sensitivity to sunlight, inflammation to the max, and way more for about three years now.

I have been to allergists, dermatologists, and several eye doctors to figure out what's wrong with my eyes. I have been patch tested and skin pricked and given several creams from dermatologists, and they all seem to be dead ends.

About a month ago, as of my writing this, I found an eye doctor who took my insurance, and he's been a blessing on this journey for me. My eye doctor has diagnosed me officially with chronic dry eye and has given me several different eye drops to alleviate my symptoms. I am seeing a specialist to move forward with my process.

Not enjoying life like I used to

The most challenging part for me living with chronic dry eye is not enjoying everyday life like most people. It's just tough to think about three years ago and see how happy my life was, and everything I took for granted back then. I used to go out all the time to the mall, movies, and be a teenager.

All I think about when I wake up is how bad my eyes are and what they will be like throughout the day. I can hardly hang out with my family, let alone any of my friends, and it puts a strain on our relationships. If it's super bright outside, there's no way I'm going out without perfect sunglasses.

I can't keep a stable job because my dry eye has given me anxiety to work and be around people. My most frustrating part, though, is when they get better, and you think you're okay, and then a few days later, I am in so much pain, and it's the same thing all over again.

Trying to treat my symptoms

I have done many things to try to treat and alleviate my symptoms. At one point, I gave up for a little bit and just lived with the pain. But I couldn't live with the dryness and inflammation that I couldn't give up.

One of the many ways I alleviate the pain is with a warm or very cold clean rag. I use it mainly to get out the discharge, because I usually resort to my hands if I don't have it. It soothes the pain a very tiny bit, but it stops my eyes from drying up so much.

Another item I use to relieve my pain is Vaseline or Aquaphor. I use Vaseline on my eyelids and around the eye because my eyes tend to dry up frequently. Sometimes I use eye drops, but only when the doctor prescribes it. I'm not a big fan of them, because some tend to burn my eyes or irritate them more.

Talking to others about my dry eye

Besides talking to my doctors, I talk to my family and my boyfriend about my eyes. They try to understand as best as they possibly can. Sometimes it seems harder on them than it is on me.

I remember when my eyes were so bad, I couldn't see anything whatsoever, not my phone light, not the room light, and especially not sunlight. So my mom and brother started frantically searching things up, trying to think of things it could be.

They often feel bad for me because I can't do the things I used to do. My boyfriend takes me to all my eye doctor appointments and grabs my cold rags, and picks up Benadryl, whatever I need.

What I wish others knew

I wish people knew about chronic dry eye, because it's a process and will probably stay with you for the rest of your life. You have to be patient and understanding. It might be painful, and you may want to quit, but there are ways to help and prevent the symptoms.

It just starts with talking about it and wanting to get help and treatment and knowing that it could be a long journey. But there are solutions and people who want to help you.

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