A woman looks into the distance as drops of water fall around her.

Chronic Dry Eyes – the Search For an Answer Begins

How many people need to wear sunglasses day and night in an airplane just to keep the airflow off their eyes? Not many!

Even with the air conditioning vent pointed away from me, or closed, I have to keep those sunnies on. Fellow passengers must think I’m strange, to put it mildly – why would anyone need to do this when the window shades are down, and the lights are dimmed? Perhaps they think I’m a celebrity traveling incognito, but a quick look at my “comfy” travel clothes and my cramped cattle-class seat would quickly dispel this idea.

Taking a long time to get diagnosed

I have chronic dry eye, and it has taken ages for it to be formally diagnosed. I must have had it for well over five years, but probably a lot longer. I didn’t know it was a diagnosable disease; I just thought it was something that happened on and off to most people. But then again, most people didn’t have the collection of eye drops that I had, so I knew I was different.

My eye specialist has been more concerned over the years with the other eye disease I have: macular degeneration. She has tested my eyes for dryness several times using various measures, including the Schirmer’s test (which I call the uncomfortable blotting paper test), and said my eyes were very dry and to use over-the-counter lubricating drops. She also recommended that I ask my general practitioner to order blood tests for various auto immune diseases. I had these blood tests done, but luckily nothing showed up.

Trying lubricating drops

I tried lubricating drops for years with varying degrees of success. Some drops helped, some didn’t. I just kept trying different brands. The specialist did recommend an eye ointment for the night, but I found this too gluggy, and I couldn’t see for ages if I needed to get out of bed for any reason.

On one of my subsequent visits to the eye specialist, I mentioned the dry eyes again, and she asked how often I was using my lubricating drops. When I said at least ten times a day, she suggested I should use drops with no preservatives.

I had always thought this was probably the case, but I personally find those little single-use vials to be a nuisance, and they are quite expensive. When I break the seal off the vial, the top seems to become very sharp, and I’ve stuck it into my eyes more than a few times.

You can try to get an extra drop or two out of them later if you stand them up somewhere, but this is not recommended; they are supposed to be used straight away, and they are very hard to find later! When I come across a half-used vial on a shelf after a few days, I find it has to go straight in the bin!

Finding something to help

A new product called Hylo-Fresh was deemed to be the answer to this problem for me. It is a type of lubricating eye drop with no preservative, and it is not in the little vials. It comes in a 10 mL container with an unusual pump action. Evidently, it has some sort of a one-way valve so nothing can seep back into the container and the solution stays sterile.

My specialist said not everyone can master the pump action, and she herself accidentally squirted it all over her face when she tried to use it. That was not very encouraging, but I bought some and gave it a go. I found it quite simple to use, and these drops helped a little.

Eyes still dry

So, I had solved the preservative problem, and the pesky little vial problem. My eyes were still dry however, and I was going through these expensive drops at an alarming rate.

I still hadn’t found the answer for me, and there was more work to do! I wasn't due to see my ophthalmologist for many months, so I had to find another solution, and I did. But that will have to be another story!

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