Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Eyes Have It, But I Don't Want It

I've always had problems with my vision. As a child, I had weak eye muscles. Before I got glasses, I
remember my parents putting eye drops in my eyes daily. I got glasses when I was about seven and bifocals when I was twelve. Over the years, my eyes have jumped back and forth between being far sided and near sided. Things hadn't changed too much over the years, until a few years ago.

A few years ago, at my yearly eye exam, the doctor decided to do a visual field exam and an optical coherence tomography (OCT). This showed I had some thinning of my retinal nerve fiber layer. After testing periodically over the next year, a progression was seen and the decision to start treatment for Glaucoma was made. The type of Glaucoma I have is Normal-Tension Glaucoma. I'm on my second type of eye drops as the first prescription didn't drop my eye pressures enough.

Around the same time the Glaucoma was developing, I started having issues with  dry eye syndrome Everyone has probably had dry eyes from time to time, but what I'm dealing with is severe and unlike anything I've ever experienced. I'm having to use lubricating eye drops hourly (sometimes more); I have an eye ointment, which seems to have the consistency of Vaseline, that I use at bedtime.

When I first developed dry eyes, my doctor said she would treat it in steps; meaning we'd try one thing and if that didn't work we'd move on to another treatment. At my last appointment, she discovered that my eyes (really eyelids), were producing very little oil. This condition is called  Meibomian gland dysfunction  and it is just one of the many possible causes of dry eyes. I didn't even know the eyes produced oil until a few years ago when our oldest daughter was found to have the same problem. Her oil glands, however, were completely blocked and producing no oils. Ironically, she has yet to develop dry eyes. Besides the eye drops, we both use warm, moist compresses for ten minutes a day; this helps the oils to soften, unclogging the ducts. My daughter also takes fish oil, which I'm guessing will be next on the list for me. My eye doctor has also discussed something called punctal plugs. They are tiny plugs that are inserted into your tear ducts so the tears remain on the eye surface.

What Severe Dry Eyes Feel Like

Dry eye syndrome can be a very serious condition. I already have scarring on my cornea from the dryness. Finding the cause can possibly help in finding the best treatment. My eye doctor and I have discussed the possible cause of my condition and we both think it's likely due to my autoimmune thyroid disease or possibly another autoimmune disease. We discussed Sjogren's Syndrome as being a possible cause as I do have other Sjogren's symptoms, but I've yet to receive a referral to a Rheumatologist from my primary care doctor. This was even after preliminary autoimmune blood work had some abnormalities and after I'd specifically asked for a referral. My next step is to see if my eye doctor will write a letter to my primary care doctor recommending I see a Rheumatologist.

It's so important to have annual vision exams, especially as we age. Most problems will be much easier to treat early on and early treatment may even save eyesight. Many people think that if they aren't having trouble seeing, their eyes are okay. This couldn't be further from the truth. So much can happen to areas of the eyes that we are unaware of; not until a skilled professional uses tools available to them can some of these issues be uncovered.

When was your last eye exam? If it has been a while, do yourself a favor and call today to schedule an appointment.


  1. Eye problems can be so annoying. I have really dry eyes thanks to myasthenia gravis (I don't blink enough and sometimes my eye pops open while I'm asleep!!) I have to use that dry eye ointment at night too. I don't like the texture but it has really helped me!
    - Brittany @ A Southern Celiac

  2. Hi, Brittany, I'm sorry you have to deal with dry eyes, too! I can see where MG could cause that. I was initially tested for MG, but the test was negative. I'm glad the ointment helps you.