Chronic Dry Eye and Skin Conditions
Last updated: June 2022
Dealing with a skin condition in addition to chronic dry eye has been (and continues to be) one of my biggest struggles. I was unfortunately reminded of just how much this affects my life again recently.
A skin flare up causes worse dry eye symptoms
A few weeks ago, I started having a bad Topical Steroid Withdrawal and eczema flare up. My entire face, neck, and upper chest have been covered in open, burning, itchy wounds. This means my eyelids are affected as well, and therefore my eyes, too. My eyes completely dry out when I’m going through a flare up. Nothing I do seems to help during that time.
Usually, I just have to accept and make peace with the fact that I have to deal with more chronic dry eye symptoms when my skin is flaring up.
Nothing seems to work
On an average day when I’m not flaring this badly, I only have to use my lubricant eye drops a couple of days – max. However, when my skin starts to get inflamed, I have to constantly use them throughout the day. Unfortunately, even that doesn’t seem to help much. It only helps for the few moments right when I put them in.
While my scleral lens helps immensely on an average day when I’m not doing this badly as well, that also doesn’t help as much. The solution dries up within an hour sometimes. This means I have to remove and put my lenses back in several times throughout the day. Not only is it annoying having to deal with that scratchy, itchy, burning feeling in my eyes, but it’s also just time-consuming in general.
One of my biggest symptoms reducers when it comes to dry eye is my Bruder mask. I am supposed to use it twice a day for about 10 minutes. However, when my skin is flaring up, I'm in a lot of pain from the burning, and putting more heat on it isn’t exactly comfortable. I end up having to avoid using my Bruder mask for days at a time. That is, until my dry eye gets so bad that I have to cave. Then I have to use it despite it being extremely uncomfortable and painful on my hot, burning skin.
Everything is connected
In my case, both keratoconus as well as chronic dry eye were both directly caused by topical steroid withdrawal. It damaged my skin so much that it ended up damaging my eyes, as well. So, needless to say, when one flares up, the other follows as well. They go hand in hand. That’s the issue with having to deal multiple chronic inflammatory conditions.
When inflammation rises in the body, it tends to set off more than one, and that makes it even more difficult. This means we have double, or even triple the symptoms to deal with and manage. And sometimes, the symptoms aren’t even manageable. Sometimes, all we can do is bear through it and do our best to survive.
It’s okay to “only” survive sometimes
So, these days, truth be told, I've just been focused on simply surviving through the day. When my health gets to a low point like this, it feels impossible to do anything else. I feel fatigued, tired, unmotivated, extremely uncomfortable, and unable to focus on anything. It becomes all-consuming and takes over every aspect of my life. It is difficult to even do basic daily tasks, let alone anything else. But I have to remind myself that sometimes, it’s okay if all we do in a day (or week, or even month at times), is just survive.
Our body is always talking to us, and when our symptoms are acting up more, it clearly has something to say. The challenge is to learn to listen. Hopefully one day, we can learn what our body is saying BEFORE a flare up occurs, so it doesn't have to "scream" at us for our attention.
But until then, it’s okay if there are days when all we can do is survive and breathe. It doesn’t make us a failure, and it doesn’t make us any “less than.”
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?