Dealing with chronic dry eyes

I’ve been wearing contacts or glasses for over 30 years. At each yearly checkup, there is little change to my prescription. But I am getting older, and last year finally started needing reading glasses in addition to using my contacts to sharpen things in the distance.

When I went to my last eye appointment in October, the doctor suggested trying progressive lenses for my glasses and trying monovision for my contacts so that I would not need the reading glasses. Monovision is where they correct one eye for distance and the other eye for reading. As strange as it sounds, it does work though the viewing of things in a distance is not as perfectly clear as it would be with regular contacts.

I adjusted to the new contacts and glasses, and everything was fine until in late February, I noticed a slight change in my vision. Sometime in the morning or evening, focusing with my contacts seemed harder when looking at the computer screen, but the problem wasn’t there for the rest of the day.

Over the next month, I noticed a slight change in my vision when looking at things in a distance. At first is wrote it off to still not being used to the not-as-crisp vision of monovision. But then I noticed that I had the same problem with my progressive-lensed glasses.

Finally, in April, I decided I needed to go to the eye doctor and talk to them about the change in vision. It seems that as many aging people (I am in my mid-forties), I have developed chronic dry eyes. I had not noticed them feeling dry. They weren’t scratchy or irritated. Sometimes they felt tired but certainly not dry. Now looking back at it that tired feeling may be them being dry.

But this isn’t the case of just having to put drops in my eyes regularly and everything is fine. My dry eyes have created corrosive patches on my cornea. The swelling from this is what had changed my vision and needed to be repaired so as not to get an infection in those open areas. (My vision had decreased so much by the time I went in that I could not see the computer screen with my glasses on. It was blurry but readable with my contacts in. I pretty much rarely wore my glasses in the weeks before my appointment.)

I went home from that appointment with a prescription for some drops that had antibiotics (for any possible infections), steroids (to reduce swelling) and a lubricant (for the dry eyes). I was also to put on a special warm mask to help produce lipids (the oily substance that moistens the eye). It was also suggested for me to not wear my contacts as to not introduce possible bacteria to my eyes.

Within a day or so of treatment, I noticed an improvement in my eyesight. After a week, I went back to the eye doctor having noticed about a 50-60% increase in improvement. Imagine my surprise when the doctor said that he saw no change in my eyes. Yes, my vision had improved but a close look with his instruments still showed swelling and dry patches – including one on my iris.

He discontinued the first set of eye drops and recommended another one to help with the swelling associated with dry eye disease. There are only 2 prescription eye drops for the long term that address my condition. Both are expensive – especially if not covered by insurance. He recommended Xiidra which works faster than Restasis. There is no generic of either medication.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, my health insurance doesn’t cover either one. And he wasn’t kidding when he said they were expensive. At my pharmacy, Xiidra was $609 without insurance. Yikes! And that is for a month’s supply. Dang.

After looking online and downloading several specials and coupons, I went to a different pharmacy where I thought I might be able to get the medication cheaper. Unfortunately, they were not able to combine all my coupons, but I was able to get the medicine for $290. (I figured I didn’t want to mess with my vision and eye health so I couldn’t let cost be a factor here.)

In addition to the new drops, I researched online things I could do to help with the chronic dry eye condition. They mentioned the warm compress/mask which I now try to do twice a day. Another suggestion was to drink more water. Done. And then there was the suggestion to blink more often. As we stare at the computer screen or our phones, we tend to not blink as often. I’ve been working on this too (as I look away from the computer screen and blink several times). And the last suggestion was to increase fatty acid intake, so I pulled out the fish oil capsules I had bought in the past but never faithfully taken and started taking those.

I have been with the regiment for a week and a half. My vision is better, but I won’t know if the dry spots have cleared up/improved until I go to the doctor later this week. I hope so but if not, he has a list of other treatments to try.

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