My Eye Issues Explained

WARNING: Some descriptions are not pleasant.

In late October last year I started having issues with my left eye. It would feel irritated and sore almost all the time. Numerous visits to the doctor left me with “use lubricating eye drops” and feeling even more frustrated. Then one morning I woke up and everything changed. I opened my eyes and it felt like someone shoved a hot needle in my eye. My eye felt like it was on fire, my vision was blurry and my eye wouldn’t stop watering. I called the doctor and they could get me in that afternoon. I somehow made it to work and tried to get some things done at the office. I had my husband meet me at the doctor’s office because my eye was no better and depending on what they would do, I might not be able to drive home.

I knew it was bad when the tech walked in, looked at me and said “Oh my god! Let me give you some numbing drops and then I’ll come back to ask questions”. The moment the numbing eye drops started to take effect I could feel the tension leave my body. After an exam and tests, it was determined that I have a weak spot on my cornea which, coupled with the also new diagnosis of severe dry eye caused Recurrent Corneal Erosion (RCE). Or, as a friend so aptly nicknamed it: Stupid Eye. What does all this mean?

Well, the severe dry eye needs to be treated with lubricating drops, gel drops and, at night an ointment in the eye. This helps keep the layers of the eye moist. However, this dry eye and the weak spot on the cornea are a bad combination. The two together caused the cells in that weak area to erode over time, mostly when I open my eyes in the morning. To put it in plain terms: when I open my eyes in the morning the eyelid and cornea stick together and when I open them, it peels a layer of the cornea off in that weak spot. Yes, ouch. Really ouch. Again, hot needle stabbed into your eye type of ouch.

So, that is what happened that day. This in turn caused a tear on the cornea which was becoming infected. Yes, even more issues. So, long story short, lots of eye drops and treatment later, the tear and infection were taken care of.

However, the dry eye and RCE would not stabilize. I was back in the doctor’s office every couple of weeks between then and mid-March with a recurrence. On a day to day basis it felt like a grain of sand stuck under my eyelid I couldn’t get rid of. I was on lubricating eye drops, steroid eye drops, a salt eye drop, ointment at night, using a humidifier and taking whatever precautions I could, to no avail. To say I was frustrated was an understatement.

This was interfering with a lot in my life. I was missing work, I wouldn’t run outside if it was windy, I would have to travel with a humidifier, I always have eye drops on me, ALWAYS, I have woken up on race mornings with an incident of RCE, blurred vision and a headache. I am terrified daily to just wake up and open my eyes, travel adds a new level of stress because of the dry air in hotels and airports. The intense searing pain is horrendous and takes me out for the day. My anxiety and stress levels were through the roof in trying to figure this all out. I wasn’t sleeping, would freak out anytime I felt like I was in a situation that would make it worse, and panicked if I didn’t have eye drops.

Finally, towards the end of February they suggested punctal plugs. Tiny little silicone plugs they place in the tear ducts to keep the naturally produced tears from draining too quickly in turn keeping the moisture on the eye. I was willing to try anything. So, March 18th they were inserted.

punctal plugs

Finally things have been stabilized. I still use a humidifier at night, lubricating drops, the salt drop and the ointment. I constantly have eye drops with me. I try to avoid being outside in high winds situations. I still stress a little bit every morning before I open my eyes, and always have eye drops on the nightstand to grab and put in my eyes before I open them.

Unfortunately, this will never go away. My aunt has a more severe issue in Fuchs Dystrophy and the likelihood of me developing that has increased.

Knocking on wood, this has been in maintenance stage since March 18th. I told my doctor (who has been great) at the appointment when they inserted the plugs that although I like him, I hope to not see him for a minimum of 6 months. So far, I have 2 months down with no incidents.

I have also developed a new love and appreciation for numbing eye drops. Whoever created them, thank you.

Resources for Recurrent Corneal Erosion:

Resources for Punctal Plugs: