Newly Diagnosed and Confused
I was diagnosed with chronic dry eye in August of 2021. I saw my longtime optometrist for my annual eye check-up. She's actually the only optometrist I've ever seen. I first needed glasses at six years old and was referred to her. I am now 22 years old and still go to her. I mention how long I've been seeing her to emphasize that she is very familiar with my health history and my eyes.
What my optometrist told me
Since my previous eye check-up with her in 2019 (I didn't have one in 2020 due to the pandemic), my health had changed a lot. In those two years, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and a neurological disease. Both of which affect my eyes, causing inflammation and light sensitivity.
When I mentioned the autoimmune condition to her, she said it is consistent with the level of eye dryness I've been experiencing. She then prescribed me Restasis (to which I had an allergic reaction). She also told me to use eye drops, an eye compress, and take omega-3 supplements daily.
What I learned on my own
Besides this, she didn't tell me much. After doing some research online, I learned that there are two types of dry eye: evaporative and aqueous deficient, or a combination of the two. I also learned that there are different levels of severity. I learned about tear film layers (oily, watery, and mucus) and different glands and their functions: lacrimal gland (secretes watery layer) and meibomian gland (secretes oily layer).
All this information was overwhelming at first. I wonder why my optometrist didn't give me more information. To this day, I am not sure what type of dry eye I have, but this makes me think it might be a combination of evaporative and aqueous deficient. In terms of severity, I think I fall between moderate and severe dry eye, but again I am not sure.
Still feeling unsure
I still feel unsure about my dry eye sometimes. I am hesitant to talk about it, because I feel like I don't know how to talk about it. I don't fully understand which part of the eye is causing what issues and feel less credible when talking about my struggles.
When my optometrist first told me I have chronic dry eye, I was taken aback. I was not expecting it at all and wasn't sure of what to do in the moment. Knowing all that I do now, and paying more attention to my eyes and learning what triggers or exacerbates my symptoms, I'd ask her a lot more questions. I'd ask her some of the following:
- What type do I have?
- How severe is it?
- What does treatment for it look like, and is it covered by insurance?
- Does my treatment for my autoimmune disease impact my dry eye at all?
- Are there any medications I'm taking that could be making it worse?
Unlike my autoimmune and neurological conditions, there aren't many communities online that speak about dry eye. I rarely ever hear people talk about it. But this site has helped me so much. I felt a lot more confused before I read about chronic dry eye and the experiences people have with it.
Now I understand that the pain, light sensitivity, and heaviness I experienced regularly were all related.
Have you taken the 2023 Chronic Dry Eye In America survey?