Staying Positive When You Have Chronic Dry Eye
Last updated: March 2023
Throughout my entire adult life, whenever I’ve had troubles or difficult times, my dad has reminded me “stay positive!” Many times I’ve thought of these words and just laughed to myself. How am I supposed to stay positive when it feels like all I have around me are problems?
There have been times when that’s exactly how I have felt dealing with my dry eye issue. It’s always there, day after day, reminding you of its presence with every gritty, burning blink. I’m not sure many people can relate, unless they have chronic pain or another type of chronic disease. It becomes an unwelcome visitor who follows you everywhere you go.
Severe dry eye disease
There are days when you think “today is a day when I really want my eyes to function. No, I *need* my eyes to function today.” But try as you might to make them happy, they have other plans.
What’s been especially hard for me is that I’m coming off of major abdominal surgery for another health problem. That issue caused waves of severe, unrelenting pain and nausea for two years and required two different surgical attempts to fix.
Looking back, I knew my chronic dry eye was getting worse even as I was sitting in a hospital bed recovering, but at the time it seemed like such a minor issue. I needed to eat, gain weight, and start walking. All these other little problems like dry eye, I can deal with those. Easily.
That’s why it was such a big blow, just a few months later, to find out I’m on the severe end of the dry eye disease scale. This wasn’t something I felt ready for, another battle after two years of fighting abdominal pain and struggling to eat.
No easy answers for dry eye
Depression and despair set in, as well as some anxiety (and if you’re feeling that way too, I encourage you to check out our Mental Health section in the drop down menu).
The first dry eye specialist I saw wanted to test me for Sjögren’s. For almost a month, I waited and worried, thinking I might have this another syndrome I knew little about except there was no cure. Then I finally saw the rheumatologist and found out, no, I did not test positive for Sjögren’s.
But why are your eyes so dry? You’re too young. You’re the wrong gender. This is how my first dry eye doctor looked at me, and it left me with an uneasy feeling in my stomach.
“Something’s wrong with you” is a very tough feeling to walk around with every day, on top of the symptoms. Especially when you feel like there are no easy answers. If you’ve gotten this diagnosis you are probably well past the point of just going to a pharmacy, getting some OTC drops and that’s that. But life goes on, so you have to keep trying.
Why I'm staying positive
“Stay positive,” the little voice inside my head says. Try to find something hopeful to hang on to, because you did get out of bed today. You are alive, and life is a gift, right?
I’ll be honest, I was not feeling it until I saw a comment from Dr. Laura Periman in a social media forum: “there’s always hope!” She mentioned new treatments, and more coming in the next few years. Coming from a dry eye expert, that gave me pause for thought.
I started doing some research, and she’s absolutely right. In addition to the treatments we have now, like prescription eye drops, there are many new treatments in the works and other avenues being investigated. The research into underlying causes is giving us better answers than we had just 10 years ago.
There are still days that are really hard for me. There are days that I get really down and I’m just tired of dealing with this. But I have found a little more energy to fight for a solution and improve the functioning of my eyes. Now that I’ve learned more about what causes chronic dry eye and how to treat it, it’s a lot easier to “stay positive.”
Has having dry eye helped you better advocate for yourself?