Shortcuts Don't Work with Chronic Dry Eye Treatment
Last updated: June 2023
They say you win some, and you lose some. And that’s me, with my chronic dry eye. It’s a daily battle with temptation, as much as a battle with my eyes. Some days I win, and some days I don’t.
What I should do vs. what I do
I know what I should do – my optometrist set out a daily plan for me months ago.
But frankly, I think the plan is too arduous. What she had suggested for me was to use a microwaveable heated mask for ten minutes, followed by lubricating drops, then about ten minutes later another type of drops for the oily tear film layer. This was to be done four times a day. “No trouble,” I said.
Enthusiasm abounded (and lasted for at least a week)! Now, in order to get going with my day, I often succeed in talking myself out of this strategy. (Perhaps I should be talking to her, rather than myself!)
So many distractions
When I don’t follow the routine, I suffer later. It takes me longer to get back on track than it would have taken to do the right thing in the first place. But there are so many distractions and temptations, especially in the morning. And the first is coffee.
Will I heat the mask and put it on for ten minutes first, as I should, and have my coffee later? Coffee often wins this debate. At least I manage to heat up the mask while I’m making the coffee. Then I put the television news on, put the mask on, and fumble around for my mug. I occasionally take a peek from under the mask to see the tv or find my coffee. Doing three things at once is not a relaxing way to start the day. It is a poor choice.
After the mask my eyes feel quite good. I’m tempted again to skip the next step, which is the lubricating drops. These are preservative-free, so I can use them as often as I need to, but four times a day is the suggested routine. Ten minutes after these drops, I put in the other type of drops which help stabilize the tear film layer. Common sense usually wins in the eye drops stakes, because it only takes a few minutes.
A moment of panic
I didn’t pay proper attention at my last appointment when the optometrist asked me to wait ten minutes between the different drops, and I had been putting them in closer together. One morning I had a moment of panic when her words came back to me. I wondered if the two drops combined in my eye would turn into some dangerous chemical, like a high school experiment gone wrong!
After a quick trip to an early-opening pharmacist, I was assured that the time delay was just to make sure each drop could perform its specific function, and they wouldn’t explode or something if they were combined. Disaster averted!
Going from the morning to afternoon
After this morning routine, and breakfast, I usually walk up to my local shopping village. This takes some more preparation, making sure I have my wraparound sunglasses and a visor or cap to keep the sun and wind out of my eyes. If I leave without either of these, I come back, because they’re essential. After the kilometre walk, mostly uphill, I feel justified in having another coffee, this one unhindered by eye masks and drops.
When I get back home, I might need more lubricating drops, but they don’t count as the second round. The second round of mask, drops, and more drops is after lunch. The third round is late afternoon (if I’m being good).
If I sneak in a little television show during the day, I close the blinds to keep out the glare. Recently, I had the air-conditioning on and was having a bad day with my eyes. I had to watch the TV with an old pair of not-so-dark sunglasses on to keep the breeze away from my face. It worked a treat; the picture was a strange color, but my eyes felt fine!
My nighttime routine
After dinner in the evening, if I want to watch a movie or show on television, I actually have to go into the settings to turn down the brightness, because the screen is too bright in the darkened room. I have also learned how to change the audio on some foreign language movies into English audio, so that I don’t have to read the subtitles. This really saves my eyes.
The last session before bed with the mask and drops is never missed. I hate to wake up in the night with eyes so dry that they hurt.
Trying to give the treatment a chance
A lot of the time my eyes are still uncomfortable. This treatment plan leaves a lot to be desired. Or perhaps it’s really my commitment to it that leaves a lot to be desired. My impatience to get on with doing other things during the day is my downfall. I really must start over and give the treatment a chance.
It reminds me of the reports I sometimes got in school that said, “Wendy has done well, but she can do better.” I don't want to hear the optometrist saying this too!
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?