My name is Judi Beatty and I’ve had Dry Eye for nearly 20 years. Until last year my symptoms included a rough feeling at the top of my eye lids, dryness, headaches, itching, depression and persistent burning in both eyes — the worst symptom of all.
But last year I finally decided to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to a well known Dry Eye doctor out of state. So in July of 2018 my husband and I flew from our home in Orange County California to see Dr. Steven Maskin in Tampa, Florida.
Judi Beatty, Orange County California Dry Eye Support Group Coordinator
I’m one of the three volunteer coordinators of the Orange County California Dry Eye Support Group. Twice a year we invite a Dry Eye doctor to speak to our 200 members. Over the last 15 years, looking for doctors to speak to our group, I have seen more doctors than I can count and I am grateful for each one of them for taking the time to learn about Dry Eye. It can be a debilitating, depressing, life-changing disease. But last year Dr. Maskin made the biggest difference in how my eyes feel.
Talking to Patients
Before my husband and I finally decided to make the trip to see Dr. Maskin, I did my homework. (Flying to Florida from California wasn’t an easy decision to make at 74, or something I wanted to do, but I did want to get better.) I read posts written by his patients on various websites. And I spoke with many of them. They were from across the U.S. and all had severe Dry Eye.
Some patients told me they hadn’t been able to find relief and their lives had been destroyed by the disease. They became housebound. Some even said they wanted to die. But when they found Dr. Maskin, and he restored their quality-of-life, they got their lives back.
While sitting in his waiting room I noticed a map with pins that showed where Dr. Maskin’s patients had come from. The map was covered with pins because people had flown from all over the world to see him. And I thought California was far away!
On the first day of appointments, Dr. Maskin examined my eyes and performed a series of tests. While I sat at the slit lamp, he looked all over my eyes carefully, did a flourescein clearance test, and pressed on my upper and lower lids to determine the number of functioning Meibomian glands.
For the test of aqueous deficiency (dryness), after placing a numbing drop in each eye, a technician dried my eyelid margins, then put Schrimer strips in the lower pouch of each eye, being careful not to touch the corneas to prevent reflex tearing which would skew the test results. After five minutes, the technician removed the Schirmer strips. She noted the how far moisture had travelled up the strip, then repeated the test two more times, leaving the Schirmer strips in my eyes each time for five minutes.
Meibography revealed the state of my Meibomian glands –their structure (length, width, and overall shape), whether or not they could function, or if they had atrophied. The confocal microscope showed my glands at a microscopic cellular level. Dr. Maskin explained inflammation, an underlying factor in Dry Eye, often starts here.
Next came the diagnosis. It was based on the exam and the test results, and would be confirmed after probing my eyelids. This is what Dr. Maskin said I had:
- Non-Sjögrens aqueous deficiency
- Delayed tear clearance
- Staphylococcus infection
- Meibomian gland orifice obstruction including periductal fibrosis, scar tissue, and keratinization from lack of blinking
- Conjunctivochalasis of the upper and lower part of the inner eye lids and on the eye ball
- Greater occipital neuralgia — that caused my headaches for five years!
It was amazing to have such a thorough diagnosis. No wonder my eyes felt so bad for so long!
Probing, Expression, and Cautery
That same day Dr. Maskin probed the Meibomian glands in my right eye. First the technician applied an ointment containing lidocaine and jojoba oil to numb the lids and minimize discomfort during the procedure. After a few minutes Dr. Maskin started probing the glands, inserting a small metal probe into each gland as I sat at the slit lamp.
He noted the sound made by the probe as it entered each gland — spongy, pop, gritty, or no sound – while the technician took notes. After probing both lids, Dr. Maskin used an expresser tool that cleared the glands with a squeezing, rolling motion, remarking that a lot of debris was coming out of the glands. Amazingly, the number of functioning Meibomian glands more than doubled immediately after probing.
I learned a lot from Dr. Maskin on day one, and on day two I returned to have my left eyelids probed and a superficial cautery of the lower left punctum. There was no real severe pain during probing. I felt mainly pressure just like the day before. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to express the glands in my left eye because we had a flight to catch.
Tweaking the Judi Beatty Daily Regimen
For the next month Dr. Maskin stayed in contact with me via e-mail — sometimes daily — helping me tweak my care program. He felt that now that my glands were open I should stop using all of my facial products because of allergies or sensitivities. So I did. No more face or eye makeup, and no more moisturizers. He had me stop Bepreve drops and Retaine ointment for the same reasons, and prescribed other products until I found something that worked but didn’t cause irritation. He also had me try various eyelid cleaners and face washes, and prescribed sterile saline for flushing my eyes periodically.
My Daily Routine
Currently I use only Oasis Tears eye drops once or twice a day and autologous serum 100% in the morning and evening. I apply warm, moist compresses twice a day, use Free and Clear Shampoo on my hair, Soothe ointment at night, and Glad Wrap to keep my lids closed while I sleep. Plus I drink lots of water, which is critical. (Dr. Maskin told me to keep a daily record of how my eyes feel, notice if they are bothersome, and “ask myself what did I just do differently” that may have caused it.)
I am still searching for a safe moisturizer for my face and something that I can tolerate to clean my eyes to reduce blepharitis and styes, and possibly a concealer to hide the dark circles under my eyes. Thankfully, I am free of the burning in my eyes but still have occasional dryness which is easily remedied by Oasis eye drops (which I love). I continue to carefully monitor anything I put on my face or in my eyes, keeping a daily journal to help me determine if anything I use could be causing my symptoms to return.
The Best My Eyes Have Ever Felt
I have to say, that in 20 years, this is the best my eyes have ever felt, and I owe it to Dr. Maskin. Other doctors along the way also helped me a lot and I am grateful for their care.
Today my eyes aren’t perfect, but for the last nine months they’ve been 80% better most of the time. I still feel the roughness in the upper part of my eyes occasionally, probably due to the conjunctivochalasis Dr. Maskin found. Someday I may decide to have it fixed. And although I still have some dryness, it’s minimal and resolved with my daily regimen and drinking lots of water. Thankfully the burning is completely gone.
Dr. Maskin is a brilliant teacher, ophthalmologist, scientist, detective, and someone who really cares about helping people. He diagnosed my complex condition and addressed my symptoms. Plus he helped me figure out the many things that I needed to change in my daily routine. He taught me that for me “the less I put on my face and eyes the better my eyes feel.” I have no words to express my gratitude because I am beyond grateful and so glad that I took a chance and went to see Dr. Maskin.
Coordinator, Orange County Dry Eye Support Group
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