It may have started with some dryness or or feeling like there’s something in your eye. You’d seen countless commercials for eye drops that promised to help. When you got to the drug store you were overwhelmed. Who knew there were so many different drops? And the price, especially for the preservative-free versions, probably gave you sticker shock. So you opted for drops that didn’t seem too expensive, even if the bottle turned out to be ant-sized.
At first maybe your eyes felt better. But then, after a while, they felt worse. Pain. Burning. Redness. More pain. More burning. Feeling like someone plunged a knife in your eye, or worse. There can be worse?!?!?!?
What the heck was going on? You tried researching online, but reading was becoming more and more painful.
Finally, you saw a doctor, maybe an optometrist. Maybe an ophthalmologist. Maybe even more than one.
Treating Dry Eye is Like Baking a Cake
What did they prescribe?
Come back in 6 or 8 weeks, they said.
Maybe after a while you felt better. If you did, you were lucky. The treatments worked. You could get on with life.
But maybe you didn’t feel better. Why? Because treating Dry Eye is a lot like baking a cake. Here are four reasons why.
REASON #1 – Lots of Recipes
They all have some kind of flour and some kind of sugar, but there are literally countless recipes for cake. Chocolate. Vanilla. Strawberry shortcake. Angel food. Devil’s food. Cupcakes anyone? Boston creme pie. It’s not really pie, is it? What about frosting or drizzle? Is one tier ever really enough? Bundt. Pound. Pineapple upside down cake. Pineapple upside down CUPcake. Now we’re talking! What about a flourless chocolate cake?
There’s literally the same endless variety with Dry Eye. Each and every one of us is pretty much the same. We’re all human. We all have DNA. But at the same time we’re all completely and utterly unique. So if your doctor is treating you as if you were a statistic, or exactly like the patient who came before you, you might not feel better. It’s one of the most frustrating things about Dry Eye. But don’t despair. Just like with baking a cake, eventually you’ll figure out which recipe for treatment is right for you.
REASON #2 – You Really Do Need a Recipe
You could try throwing some flour and sugar into a bowl, adding some butter, maybe some eggs. Mix them up. Pour into a cake pan and put it in the oven. But at what temperature and for how long? If you take this approach – without a recipe – chances are your cake will turn out yucky. On the other hand – start with a recipe – and you’ll improve your chances of ending up with something luscious that might even be beautiful.
Why is this like Dry Eye? Because before you start throwing treatments at your eyes, you first need to know exactly what you’re treating. Do you have meibomian gland dysfunction? Restasis probably won’t help much. Do you have aqueous deficiency? Lid wipes, not so much. Demodex mites? Skip the serum tears. Foreign body sensation? It’s anybody’s guess.
One of the things Dry Eye sufferers sometimes try is the shot gun approach. They throw any and every treatment at their eyes in the hopes that something will work. Maybe some will. Others won’t. The danger with this is approach is that some conditions could go undiagnosed and untreated. And if something helps, it’s anyone’s guess what does and what doesn’t. So you won’t know which treatment to stop or which one to keep doing.
Maybe you do need lubricating drops, warm compresses, lip wipes and Restasis. But maybe you need more. With a good and comprehensive diagnosis, just like with a good cake recipe, you’ll find out what specific conditions you have. Your treatments will target them and you’ll have a much better chance of a good outcome.
REASON #3 – The Better the Ingredients the Better the Results
Even if you have a good recipe your cake will only be as good as the ingredients its made of. If you use rancid butter or rotten eggs your cake will be horrible. But baked with good quality butter, fresh eggs, and other quality ingredients, your cake stands a good chance of being scrumptious.
It’s the same with Dry Eye. If you’re using lubricating drops regularly, avoid the ones with preservatives. If you apply warm compresses, only let the cleanest materials touch your eyes. And wash your hands. Don’t touch your eyes for any reason unless you’ve just washed your hands. Rest your eyes often and get a good night’s sleep. In other words, do everything you can to give your eyes a chance to feel better.
And then don’t stop doing it!
REASON #4 – The Better the Baker, The Better the Cake
Yes, just about anyone can make a cake from a mix that’s moist and delicious. But if you want something truly spectacular you’ll turn to an experienced baker who really knows her craft.
It’s the same with doctors. Most can treat mild forms of Dry Eye. But if your symptoms just aren’t going away, you may need to look for a Dry Eye specialist, typically an ophthalmologist who specializes in Cornea and External Diseases. These doctors will usually have the most training and the largest set of tools (just like professional bakers in professional kitchens), to treat all of the various co-morbidities contributing to your symptoms.
Whatever you do, whichever recipe you choose, don’t give up. There are lots and lots of cake recipes out there and lots and lots of treatments for your condition. That means there’s always hope!
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