Last year Susie Brockman shared with all of us her remarkable Story of Hope. Today she follows up with what she calls “the most important piece of advice I can give anyone with Dry Eye.”
As Dry Eye sufferers we’re desperate to find relief from pain. We sign up for support groups, purchase every new over-the-counter drop we can find, join any number of online forums, and seek out other Dry Eye sufferers. We modify our lives to accommodate our disease.
But all too often, nothing seems to work.
That’s because Dry Eye is extremely complex. Many different things can cause Dry Eye and there are lots of variations of it. So treating the disease takes a lot of finesse. Or, in other words, one size doesn’t fit all.
Each Dry Eye Case is Unique
Each Dry Eye case is unique and there are many causes. For example, various diseases can contribute to, or cause Dry Eye, e.g.: diabetes, collagen vascular diseases, autoimmune diseases like Sjogrens syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, lupus, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
Many medications can cause Dry Eye or make it worse, e.g.: antihistamines, pain pills, blood pressure meds, birth control pills, antidepressants, or hormones, to name a few. Other causes of Dry Eye include aging, radiation treatment, Lasik surgery, inflammation, and allergies. The list goes on. In many cases, a patient has a combination of these problems which makes diagnosing complex.
The Most Important Piece of Advice
Nevertheless, an accurate diagnosis is the first step in finding relief for anyone with Dry Eye, and especially anyone with an advanced case. That’s why the most important piece of advice I can give is to find an ophthalmologist. Preferably the doctor will specialize in cornea and external disease and sub-specialize in Dry Eye, because all ophthalmologists aren’t alike. There are different sub-specialists and even sub-sub-specialists. So, even if an ophthalmologist specializes in cornea and external disease, he may not be a Dry Eye specialist.
A general ophthalmologist will typically prescribe over-the-counter eye drops, prescription eye drops, warm compresses, some type of lid wipe, and maybe eventually punctal plugs. Unfortunately, if these treatments don’t work, they don’t prescribe other treatments. It’s only those who specialize in Dry Eye, and have experience with the complexities of the disease, that will figure out what’s really going on and give you hope.
It All Begins with Finding the Right Doctor
Once you find a Dry Eye specialist, he’ll examine your eyes carefully and put you through a series of tests – Schirmer tests, meibography, tear break-up, and so on. Afterwards you’ll get a diagnosis and treatment plan. You’ll finally find out what’s causing your symptoms. It might not be what you expected, and it might be something you’ve never even heard of. But at least then you’ll start treating the conditions you have and the diseases that are causing you pain. Doing that will restore your hope.
If you’re one of those who’s tried different treatments, but none of them helped, this is especially important for you to understand. It’s not that the treatments are bad (although some might be questionable), it’s that the treatments aren’t working on your specific set of conditions. There might be systemic or environmental causes. You might have meibomian gland disease or something entirely different. Just because someone else has success with a treatment plan, doesn’t mean you’ll require the same regimen to solve your Dry Eye issues and relieve your pain.
Remember, it all begins with finding a doctor, then getting tested properly, getting a comprehensive and accurate diagnosis, and following your Dry Eye specialist’s plan of action. That’s how I found hope, and you will too.
Susie Brockman, Chronic Dry Eye Patient
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