What I Wish People Knew About Chronic Dry Eye
Growing up during middle school and my teenage years, I didn’t even know chronic dry eye was a “thing.” When I started wearing contact lenses in high school, I knew eyes can get a bit drier wearing contacts. However, I had no idea it can turn into a full-blown diagnosis of its own and affect so much of my life. Honestly, I don’t recall many eye doctors even talking to me about this and how serious it can be.
This is why I’m a firm believer we need more education around this topic – and eye health in general, for that matter.
It’s more common than people think
One of the big misconceptions, from my perspective, is that this isn’t a very common condition, and that’s why it’s not talked about much.
Yet, more than 16 million in the US have been diagnosed with it. Furthermore, it is estimated that between 5% and 34% of the world's population suffer from dry eye. I actually imagine there are many more than that, in reality, since many are still undiagnosed.1
If more people knew about it and how common it is, then they could potentially catch it at an early time. This could prevent it from progressing further.
It takes a lot of time and energy
As someone who deals with other chronic illnesses, a lot of my time daily is spent doing “extra” things that the average person doesn’t necessarily have to do. Whether it’s putting my scleral lens in (which took me about an hour the first time I had to do it - no joke), putting in eye drops, using compresses, putting on creams – it all takes time.
This means I have less time in the day than the “average” person to be productive in other areas of my life. On top of that, dry eye can SERIOUSLY impact my focus levels and make it hard to get things done.
Then, my inner critic chimes in every single day. It loves to tell me I didn’t do “enough” and I’m just “lazy.” This continues to be a daily battle for me.
In addition, this also means I have less time and energy to do the things I enjoy and love and just live. And frankly, some days, all I have the energy to even do is focus on managing my symptoms and surviving.
Dealing with chronic dry eye is expensive
The amount of money it takes to manage any chronic illness is insane.
In the case of chronic dry eye, my scleral lens is at the top of that list. It costs over $500 for one lens. This doesn't include the daily contacts for my other eye, the solution and other supplies, eye drops, etc. Thankfully, insurance does cover the lenses for me.
On the other hand, that means I have to shell out a few hundred dollars on glasses each year, or at least every couple of years, out of pocket. Plus, the contact care solution, eye drops, and other supplies I have to use daily are also unfortunately not covered.
You may think this is just small stuff, but trust me, it adds up – especially for someone who can’t work a “normal” full time job due to all of their ailments.
It impacts every area of life
Needless to say, this impacts every area of our life in some way. “Dry eye” sounds like such a benign term, yet it causes so many issues in our lives. For someone who didn’t even know this condition existed the majority of my life, I wish I had personally known more about it. Maybe then, I would have been able to prevent it to some degree – or least minimize the severity of it.
Thankfully now, with how widespread the internet and social media have become, it is much easier to share stories like mine. Within communities like this one, we can also connect with others who struggle with similar issues. This is so important when dealing with any chronic illness.
This way, we can continue to raise awareness and educate others on this topic. Hopefully in turn, we can also continue to reduce the stigma surrounding chronic illness.
Have you tested your dry eye knowledge?