Chronic Dry Eye - No Quick Fix
Last updated: November 2021
I was searching for ten years before I finally got a diagnosis of chronic dry eye. I went to more than thirty doctors in the past ten years. Hardly any of them had advice that worked, and if it did, it was only temporary relief.
The eyes of a 90-year-old
When I first started this journey I thought there was a week's worth of pills I could take to bring my eyes back to normal. As years went on, with no relief, I had doctors tell me I had the eyes of a 90-year-old (at age 24) and then simply not believe me when I told them my routine for caring for my eyes, because “there’s just no way your eyes could look this bad if you were caring for them properly!”
This led to discussions about how long I had before I would be fully blind due to scarring, talk of not being eligible for a cornea transplant because of chronic inflammation, and pamphlets about learning braille.
When I finally got the diagnosis, I was relieved. My enemy had a name.
My symptoms all started when I was in my first year of college. I had bad acne and thought I would do anything to clear it up. I went on popular acne medication, and after 3 months, had difficulty seeing at night. I opted to stop the medication, but my eyes never seemed to recover.
Flying was torture, being anywhere in the sun was beyond painful, driving was difficult, my eyes always felt so tired and sore. I was constantly on steroids, so my body was quite swollen looking, and makeup made my eyes even worse, so there was no hiding the acne and redness that was covering my face. I was miserable and angry that no one could help me. I felt alone.
Scarring on my corneas
For ten years, my eyes have been red. For five years, my vision has been declining. I have scarring across the bottoms of my corneas, constant styes, and many eye infections. I have more heated eye masks, preservative-free eye drops, lid cleaners, and steroid eye drops floating around my home than anyone I know. I was tired of people asking me if I was okay, tired of looking tired, and tired of wearing sunglasses inside.
After years of light sensitivity, blurry vision, grittiness, and redness, I was able to go to Mayo Clinic in Arizona to see their cornea specialist.
She was the first doctor who spent more than 20 minutes in a room with me and walked through the past 10 years of my medical history. She offered me support and data, and finally said, with a little bit of shock that no one had told me before, "You have severe chronic dry eye."
A life-changing solution
The first time my doctor put a scleral lens in my eye was February 17, 2021. Even without my prescription for these lenses, I knew my life had changed. The best way I can describe it is like being able to see the world in HD again. I cried as my doctor told me about how the lenses worked, because I could see the eye chart clearer than I had in years.
When I sat and put my first pair of prescription scleral lenses in, I was in shock. On the drive home, I was unbelievably happy. I could see blades of grass and individual gravel rocks on the side of the road, things I hadn’t been able to see in years.
Here I am a few months later driving without difficulty, no need for sunglasses indoors, with bright white eyes. While I will always have chronic dry eye, scleral lenses have changed my life.
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?