It began in September. After a long weekend of gardening, which included chopping apart a huge tree stump with a hatchet and sledgehammer, I woke up with a bloodshot red eye. Of course, it also happened to be my first day back at work. But no real worries, I’ll just wear my glasses a few days until it settles down.
One week later I wore my contacts. The next morning both eyes were red and irritated. I let them calm down again.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. After the second round of red eyes calming down, wearing contacts once, red eyes returning, I called my regular eye doctor. He prescribed me with an antibiotic ointment treatment once a day for about a week. At this point I still wasn’t worried.
But after the antibiotics and returning to contacts the redness came back with a vengeance. I woke up one morning with my eyes crusted shut and they were so painful and light sensitive it was hard to look at my computer screen. At this point it was time to get serious.
On Halloween I saw a corneal specialist for the first time. I didn’t even know the cornea was something you could specialize in as a doctor, but there I was. After several tests involving multiple rounds of eye drops – which, if you’ve ever seen me try to administer eye drops you’ll know it’s basically my own personal hell – and literally sticking paper strips into my eyes and leaving them for five minutes – this is apparently checking your tear production – I was diagnosed with moderately severe dry eye. The tear test levels were astonishingly low and my corneas were suffering.
Dry eyes is present in my family, and as a genetics person I understand the hereditary nature of the disease. But as I was talking the doctor, it came out (like always) that I had spent the last two years is dusty, dry, coal dust ridden Tajikistan. Not exactly ideal conditions if dry eye was just waiting for an excuse to rear it’s ugly head.
I’m currently on my second round of trying to fix the problem. Pretty much immediately I had the lower tear duct drain (aka the lacrimal punctum) in each eye stopped up using a teeny tiny plug. It felt EXTREMELY weird at first but after a few days I didn’t notice anything. Then it’s as if my eyes said “wait! we know what’s wrong! you need more tears!” and my eyes were flooded for maybe a week or so. Once that nonsense subsided my eyes felt normal for a few weeks. But, of course, my right eye just had to be difficult and went right back to being angry. This time it got so bad my vision was affected and I could barely read 20/50 eye charts WITH my glasses.
Since we are going abroad again – and since my eyes hate it so much – I’m trying to avoid needing eye drops. Aside from the expense, I’d rather not have to deal with needing a liquid prescription while overseas. So a few days ago I had the upper tear duct drain plug placed in my right eye. Now the tears really have nowhere to go and hopefully will actually do their job and protect my cornea. I’m currently in the my-eye-remembered-how-to-produce-tears-so-I-look-like-I’m-constantly-crying stage, but hopefully this finally fixes things.
In the meantime, all I can do is hope. And apparently involuntarily cry at lot.