A few weeks ago, just before I turned out the light to go to sleep, I felt a stabbing pain in my left eye. I had been out walking my dog a few hours earlier in a high wind, so I immediately assumed that I had gotten a piece of grit or glass in my eye. For the next hour or so, I did the things I knew to do to try and remove a foreign object from my eye—flooding it with eyewash solution, holding the eyelashes out away from my eye and blinking madly.
Finally I realized it wasn't getting any better, and I was worried about something causing permanent damage to my cornea, so I did one of my least favorite things in the entire world: I went to the emergency room.
After shivering in the E. R. for a couple of hours (why do those places have to be so bloody cold?), the diagnosis was that I had a small rip in my cornea, but apparently no foreign objects in my eye. This was a relief—at least I wasn't shredding my cornea with every blink, which is what it felt like. Why I had a rip in my cornea, the E.R. doc couldn't say, but at least I didn't have to be afraid of worse damage. So I went home, tried (in vain) to get a bit of sleep, and called my regular eye doctor as soon as his office opened.
The diagnosis: dry eye syndrome. My eyes had gotten so dry while I was staring at my computer screen before I went to bed that the eyelid had stuck to the surface of my eye and caused a little tear when it moved. I have known for some time my eyes were chronically dry—I've been staring at a computer for the past three decades, I've had LASIK surgery and am addicted to artificial tears—but this was a whole new level of eye drought.
So the doctor prescribed Restasis eye drops and sent me on my way. He warned me that they could be "a little pricey." I have relatively good insurance, so I wasn't worried. When the bill came, I discovered that a month's supply is $65—with my insurance. What people with no insurance would have to pay, I don't even want to contemplate.
Photo by ~jjjohn~/Courtesy Flickr
But, the syndrome is commonplace, so my guess is there's a pretty large pool of dry-eye sufferers who will pay what they have to to get some relief. At this level, it isn't just uncomfortable, it's dangerous for the health of my eye, so I'm with them on that.
However, since I'm all about finding safe, natural alternatives, I've been doing some reading. I got enough Restasis to last until the end of November, and in the meantime, I'm on a quest for effective, inexpensive, SAFE remedies to try for myself and to share with our readers.
To add incentive to my quest, I read the small print on the Restasis insert and discovered that the eye drops are made by the same company that creates Botox, for which I have a special disgust, and that the eye drops are tested on animals. I am committed to a life without products that are tested on animals and the idea of a bunch of helpless animals suffering for the sake of my dry eyes makes me want to cry, punch someone and/or throw up.
So, I'm doubling the amount of Omega fatty acids I take. I'm adding flaxseed oil to my diet. I'm looking for eye drops with hyaluronic acid in them (so far, it appears that Blink drops are the only ones), and checking out a variety of options.
One product I've seen mentioned is BioTears, capsules that provide the nutritional basis for our natural tears. Have any of you tried this product? If so, what did you think?
Have you tried anything else to treat dry eyes? I'd love to hear from you.