Raising Awareness for Dry Eye Disease
I was sitting in my minivan in the Subway parking lot on my way back from my appointment with my dry eye specialist. People passed by on both sides of my vehicle. As I used the iTear 100 device my doctor let me try, I couldn’t help but feel a little awkward.
The device is a handheld tool that stimulates the external nasal nerve through vibration, sending a signal to the brain for the lacrimal glands to produce tears. I was holding the device for about 30 seconds on each side of my nose, its little motor buzzing. “What must they be thinking?” I thought to myself about the people outside my window.
Feeling self conscious
And then I chided myself for feeling self conscious. Here’s the reality: People with commonly acknowledged conditions like asthma use devices like inhalers every day without getting a second glance. Why should this be any different? But the truth is, this is different because it is a new technology. And dry eye sufferers like myself have the responsibility to normalize it.
People who do not suffer from dry eye simply do not understand how life-altering it can be. At least I didn’t until I experienced it. That’s why talking about it and administering treatments like the iTear 100 device out in the open is important. Though, it’s not easy.
Sometimes when I’m at work or at church, I feel the need to hide in the bathroom to put in eye drops. I don’t want to draw attention to myself. But people with this condition need people who are willing to be bold and forthright in educating others. We need fellow dry eye sufferers raising awareness for this condition. I need to be confident in putting drops in with others watching.
Awareness is growing. In 2005, the Sjögren’s Foundation and others called on Congress to declare July "Dry Eye Awareness Month" in an effort to raise awareness about the condition, as well as symptoms and treatment options. But we need to continue to raise awareness for many reasons.1
Talking about dry eye
First, many people who have dry eyes don’t know that they do, and many are doing things that could be potentially harmful to their eyes. I preach to my family and friends about all of the preventative measures that can be taken, so that they won’t have to experience what I have experienced.
Also, most insurance companies do not cover the many beneficial dry eye treatment options such as autologous serum tears, Blephex, MiboFlow, LipiFlow, and intense pulsed light (IPL). Some of these have been around for many years now, but they are still not covered. And the out-of-pocket cost for these treatments can be expensive.
We need doctors and patients talking about dry eye and these new treatments, so that insurance companies will recognize the need.
Have you found ways to raise awareness for dry eye disease?
Have you ever canceled travel plans due to dry eye?