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Dry Eyes - My Search for Answers

I don’t know about you, but when I am told I have a new health condition, I want to know why. Is it because of genetics, or perhaps something I did, to cause me to have it?

Asking why

When I was told by my optometrist that I had a dry eye condition, my first question was why. I had gone in to see if the increased blurring I was experiencing was from my dry macular degeneration.

After a careful examination, he told me that the meibomian glands in my eyes were clogged up. Over the course of several visits, he manually expressed the clogged glands. This plus the use of warm moist compresses on my eyes has helped, but I still have daily problems with dry eyes.

I wondered if anything I had done had caused the clogged meibomian glands. My research led me to conclude that wearing eye makeup may have caused my problems. Wearing eye makeup can clog the meibomian glands. I was guilty of not always removing my makeup at bedtime, or doing a less-than-thorough job. Now my practice is to thoroughly clean my eyes before bed.

Other potential causes

Cataract surgery

I began an online search to see what other factors may have played a role in my now chronic dry eye condition. I read that cataract surgery may cause temporary dry eye, and in some cases the dryness can last longer.1 I had cataract surgery and a few months later had a laser treatment to remove cloudiness common after cataract surgery (YAG). After thinking back on my experience, I realized that was about the time my problems started.

Blinking less during reading and TV

Reading on electronic devices and watching television for prolonged periods of time may cause the eyes to feel dry. That is because when we read or watch television, we do not blink as often. I can take television or leave it, but I love reading. After retirement, I finally had time to read as much as I wanted.2

Since I have vision loss caused by age related macular degeneration (AMD), all my reading is done on my tablet so I can enlarge the text. It is not uncommon for me to read to the point I can barely see. That is when I know it’s time for a break. I try to shift my focus away from my device and look across the room for a few seconds every few minutes.

Allergy medications

I have suffered with allergies since childhood. I have been taking Zyrtec daily and occasionally use Benadryl at night to help with the allergies. Allergy medications can also contribute to dry eyes.3 After learning that my medications could be making my dry eyes worse, I stopped taking daily allergy medications.

Instead, I use saline nose spray to relieve stuffiness and after exposure to allergens. I will take a short acting medication for allergies during a bad flare up but do my best to avoid them.

Taking control over dry eye

Learning all I can about chronic dry eye has given me a feeling of control over my condition. I take what steps I can to not worsen the problem, and the things I can’t change I don’t worry about.

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