Chronic Dry Eye Patient Spotlight: Annie-Danielle Grenier
I started noticing dry eye symptoms when I was a teenager (I’m now 42). I was wearing soft contact lenses at the time and not always in tune with my body. There would be times they’d be so dry when I’d remove them, they’d be stuck to my eyes and would fold in four onto themselves once out of my eyes... absolutely no moisture left!
Because of the dryness, I couldn’t use those lenses you can sleep in or wear for a whole week. My eyes were always too dry for that. I’d absolutely have to remove mine at the end of the day, and sometimes earlier than I would’ve liked.
Issues with my eyes
I was diagnosed with nocturnal lagophthalmos in my early 20s (eyes not fully closing while sleeping), and it often means having a lot of pain trying to close my eyes in the morning (yes, I mean “close”!)
I was able to get LASIK surgery in 2011 to correct my myopia and astigmatism... but I soon had a new eye problem, called corneal ectasia, which is secondary to a genetic condition I have. I had to have surgery on my corneas in 2019 to stop the disease’s progression, and now need to wear special lenses called scleral lenses.
The dryness has only gotten worse over the years, especially since I also have autoinflammatory and autoimmune diseases, so inflammation in my eyes is a common thing and only makes the dryness more intense.
Hardest part of chronic dry eye
The most difficult part for me with chronic dry eye is that it makes me want to rub my eyes, and it’s already a no-no for anyone, but especially with corneal ectasia. My eyes are extra fragile to rubbing, and it could restart the cornea bending out of shape, which led to me losing part of my vision.
Of course if I rub my eyes, I could also cause abrasion of my cornea. And if that happens, I can’t wear my special lenses, which are the only way I can see clearly. Glasses can’t correct vision problems caused by corneal ectasia, so I really need to be able to use my scleral lenses!
How I've treated my symptoms
I’ve tried a lot of things over the years to help my symptoms. At first it was just regular drops, then better quality drops (artificial tears without conservation agents). At times I’ve had to use antihistamine and anti-inflammatory drops for short periods. I also tried lacrimal plugs, but only got my corneas scratched in the process (admittedly, as I said, my corneas are particularly fragile).
The scleral lenses I need to see are sometimes used to help dryness. Sadly, they don’t help me much on that front, as I end up suffering from dryness between the lens and my eyelid! I’ve been using cyclosporine drops daily for a few months now; maybe it will eventually work (fingers crossed!). In the meantime, I continue using gel drops very frequently and ointment at night.
Talking to others
I live with many health issues, so chronic dry eye often gets forgotten. When I talk about it, people brush it off and feel like they know what it’s like, as they, too, have had to use drops here and there and sometimes have scratchy, dry eyes. But putting eye drops in eyes that are slightly bothersome is nothing compared to having pain, difficulty seeing, or having to use drops more than once an hour every day.
What I wish others knew
I wish people understood that chronic dry eye might seem like a minor thing, and, sure, compared to other health issues maybe it’s small: it’s not life threatening. But it’s more than just a bother, as it can also really hurt and has a huge impact. An impact on vision quality and on eye health. Most of all, it also has an impact on quality of life!
Did you know patients can experience dry eye symptoms but have healthy-looking eyes under a slit-lamp exam?