Managing Dry Eye Today and Every Day


Whenever I run into someone who tells me they have Dry Eye, one of the first questions I ask is how they manage it. I want to know their diagnosis and the treatments they’ve been prescribed, especially if it’s something they need to do every day.

Managing Dry Eye Today and Every Day

Many of these people say their doctors diagnosed Dry Eye. They use nothing more than over-the-counter lubricating eye drops and they’re good to go. Often the best remedy is natural allergy relief. Years ago I was one of them — diagnosed with Dry Eye and sent on my way with a sample of preservative-free lubricating drops. Sadly, those days are long gone.

A Spiral of Worsening Symptoms

As my disease progressed, doctors neglected to diagnose — and also treat — other related conditions. This caused a spiral of worsening symptoms. When things got really bad, and as I became more and more frustrated, I began my own intelligence gathering. I discovered what might be happening with my eyes, and what might be done to improve my symptoms.

Gathering intelligence took many forms. I listened to my eye doctor(s), spoke with other patients or found them on social media, and read what I could. All of this intel helped me weed out the viable treatments from the vast sea of nonsense out there, or what just might not be a treatment appropriate for me.

How I’m Managing Dry Eye Today and Every Day

Now, after surgeries, many other treatments, and years of applying a slew of medications to my eyes, my routine, is much less involved. Though it’s still nothing to sneeze at.

Susan Howell at a nature preserve with Rosy, an Australian galah parrot.

This is how I’m managing Dry Eye today and every day. When I wake up I rinse my eyes with sterile saline solution, then clean my lids with Ocusoft Plus, a foaming lid scrub. After that I use a prescription allergy eye drop, one in each eye.

It doesn’t end there.

I take supplements daily — Omega 3 fish oil, a probiotic, and turmeric. At day’s end I apply a warm compress to my eyes. (This late-night compress gives me a few minutes to relax while enjoying the warmth of the compress on my eyes). Afterwards there’s another lid scrub. Then finally, a drop of Azasite goes into each eye to combat bacteria that causes my tear film to be soapy. Phew!

What If I Stopped?

With so much eye care to administer at home, I sometimes ask myself, what would happen if I stopped my daily routine altogether? Would my eyes feel even worse? I suspect the answer would be yes, but I’m just not willing to find out, at least not yet.

Or sometimes I wonder if all of that care really helps my eyes feel better. Honestly, it’s hard to be absolutely certain. Even with a daily routine, my symptoms are like a roller coaster ride. Some days my pain is manageable. On other days I want to rip my eyes out. Sadly, it’s like that for many chronic Dry Eye patients.

Inflammation, My #1 Enemy

One thing I learned when I was in intelligence gathering mode is how inflammation effects my symptoms. Whatever the condition — meibomian gland dysfunction, ocular rosacea, anterior blepharitis, poster blepharitis, or demodex mites – most treatments aim to reduce inflammation. It’s often the inflammation that leads to pain, swelling, redness, dry or watery eyes, and leaves us feeling miserable.

The question is, what’s causing the inflammation in the first place? When my doctors treated the inflammation itself, I never really felt better. Now, I’m addressing the underlying causes – demodex mites, bacteria, and so on – and that’s why my symptoms continue to improve.

Some causes of inflammation are obvious, but others not so much. Figuring out my triggers was the key, because there are many things that can cause inflammation.

Diet

One is diet. I’ve learned that my diet is a huge factor in the inflammation associated with many of the ocular surface conditions I face. Sugar, in particular, is the mortal enemy of my eyes. Unfortunately, I have a sweet tooth. Aaaargh! Over the years I replaced sugar with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts. It wasn’t easy, but it was a change that helped a lot.

My #1 enemy. Sugar.

At a recent office visit with my ophthalmologist, he confirmed just how important a low-sugar diet is for me. When he examined my meibomian glands and found I was producing less oil, he asked if I had changed my diet. Reluctantly, I confessed to eating three jelly donuts the day before, too embarrassed to even mention I had washed them down with a root beer float! I was busted, but also more determined to be disciplined about what I eat.

If you’re thinking about making changes to your diet, vitamins, or the supplements you take, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor first.

Hydration

I keep a glass of water on the kitchen counter.

Another thing I learned was how important it is for me to stay hydrated. When I drink a lot of water my eyes feel better. (Up to 60% of the adult human body is composed of water). Making sure I drink plenty of water throughout the day is essential. I keep a glass filled with water on the kitchen counter as a reminder that I need to drink up.

Do My Part, Stay Informed.

When I leave my eye doctor’s office with the hope that a prescribed treatment will bring me some relief, I remind myself that I need to do my part, stay on course, and be disciplined about the treatment, whatever it may be. If a treatment is making things better, great! If things get worse, I tell my doctor so my treatment can be adjusted.

Plus I continue to stay informed. If I hear or read about some new treatment or supplement through the Dry Eye grapevine, I ask my doctor about it. (We’re all on the lookout for that magic bullet that might bring us relief, right?). In this way, I stay an engaged and informed partner in my own health care.

Choose Hope

There was a time when I thought I was running out of options, depressed, and losing hope. I know now that there was no need to lose hope. There are lots of treatments out there, and some made my eyes feel a whole lot better. It took some time to get diagnosed and find the right combination of treatments, but I finally did. As a result, managing Dry Eye today and every day has become a lot easier. Even though there are still days when my eyes are miserable, my worst day these days is miles better than my best day 1.5 years ago.

So I choose hope. I hope you will too.

Susan Howell


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