Three years ago I suffered with symptoms of severe Dry Eye. My eyes constantly felt dry, irritated, and gritty, and were sensitive to light. On Schirmer tests, where a score of 10 is normal, one eye scored an abysmal 0 and the other eye fared hardly better with a whopping 1. My eyes were so uncomfortable that they interfered with my work and social life. Making matters even worse, no doctor I saw was to be able to diagnose my conditions or relieve my symptoms.
As an Asian with a double fold in the upper lid, I have approximately 60 meibomian glands in each upper lid and 20 in each lower lid. But back then I had only 3 meibomian glands opened and functioning in each eye. (You need about 10 working glands to feel comfortable). Contributing to my extreme discomfort, Dry Eye had caused superior limbic keratoconjunctivitis (SLK) and conjunctivochalasis in both eyes. SLK caused extreme pain in the upper half of the eye every time I blinked. Conjunctivochalasis made my eyes feel raw. The wrinkled conjunctival tissue harbored bacteria that caused recurring pink eye and eye pain. Needless to say, I was miserable. As my eye discomfort consumed my life, I became depressed and began to lose hope.
It’s Possible to Get Dry Eye Symptoms Under Control
Then in 2014 I was finally diagnosed with all of these conditions and began a treatment plan that started with cautery of the tear ducts to retain moisture in my eyes. A few days later I had amniotic membrane transplant (AMT) surgeries for SLK and conjunctivochalasis. After recovering from the surgeries, I had meibomian gland probing to clear the glands of any obstructions. Soon after these procedures, my eyes began to feel moist and comfortable. I’ll never forget the first moment I felt wetness in my eyes and shouted out to my husband “I have tears, I have tears!”
Two years have gone by since the initial treatments. I still see an ophthalmologist in Tampa and another in Seattle where I live. And my eye health continues to improve. In April 2016, I underwent meibomian gland probing again for the third time – something I have been doing about once a year. And I’m happy to report that after my last probing I had more than 50 glands opened in each eye, a truly remarkable outcome especially considering how few were functioning just a few years ago. Plus my Schirmer tests scores have improved considerably, increasing from 1 to 22 in one eye and from zero to 16 in the other. If anything, one eye feels a little too wet.
As I sit at my desk and writing this, my eyes feel quite comfortable. Admittedly, sometimes they are a little too wet and sometimes they are still a little uncomfortable. But I could never have imagined a day like this three years ago, at a time that I was so miserable that I thought I would rather die than live like this. Instead I am grateful for having found help. And with help, my hope was restored.
Although currently there are no cures for Dry Eye Syndrome, with correct diagnoses, effective treatments, and life style change, it’s possible to get Dry Eye symptoms under control and manage them successfully. My eyes are a testament to that possibility as I continue to remain hopeful and work on reaching the next level of comfort for my eyes.
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