Last June, I woke up one morning with my left eye so swollen I could barely open it. Because I don’t think straight sometimes, I went into work after taking some Advil and applying a cool compress until it didn’t hurt quite so bad. (Don’t worry – my boss sent me straight home after a pretty serious lecture about not coming into work when sick, particularly with pink eye.)
Like a good girl, I went to my primary care doctor as soon as I could get an appointment. He checked out my eyes, deemed it likely to be pink eye, gave me a sample of an antibiotic eye drop, and told me to come back the next week if it was still bugging me.
Well, it still was, so I went back. While I could open both of my eyes all the way by then, there were now both red, itchy, and irritated. His nurse practitioner gave me a different antibiotic and an Rx for a steroid eye drop. I picked it up and it made my eyes feel much better, so I stopped after a week, as I was told to do.
And they got bad again. Much worse, even. You know that feeling when you keep your contacts in then go to sleep or pull an all-nighter? Burny, super dry.
My doctor sent me to an eye doctor, who I literally chose at random based on taking my health insurance and being able to see my ASAP. (My one eye doctor is only a specialist in Strabismus and my former, general eye doctor had retired.)
After doing some odd tests – like putting in drops, putting a test strip covered in yellow dye on my eye, then using a super bright blue light to look reallyyyyy close, I had a diagnosis: Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (or MGD, which is far easier to spit out). Basically, the oil glands in my eye don’t like to clear themselves out, so my eyes just dry up. Yeah, you have oil glands in your eyelids – one on top and one on the bottom.
The treatment was easy: lay off the steroid drops, use preservative-free eye drops as often as I could throughout the day, use preservative-free eye gel before bed, and use a heated mask at least every few days.
Sounds easy, but, ugh, I’m not so great with remembering, even when doing the treatments really helps.
I went back, this time to a different doctor in the same office, six months later and the verdict was that my eyes were still pretty jacked up. They were so dry I was actually about to get leisons on my eye itself. Yeap, not good.
A new treatment was given, and it wasn’t so easy: keep up with the drops/gel and mask, but add in a low-dose of antibiotic, fish oil pills, a steroid eye drop, and an antibiotic eye drop. Eventually, the list got reduced to pull the two special drops by add in the really special – and super pricey – Restasis.
All this and my doctor has no idea what causes my eye issues, just that I can sort of make them OK when I’m really good at keeping up with my treatment. A bunch of blood tests were ordered to see if I had any of the things which can cause dry eye – of which there are MANY – and two tests came back out of range. Two tests I’m now waiting to meet with a specialist about. Two tests which are often out of range for otherwise healthy people, or which could be a sign of something major.
I’ll be over here, with my hoard of eye drops and blood-shot eyes, trying to remain calm.