I know that dry eyes are a major problem for Sjogren’s sufferers. For me, they have been a HUGE impediment to reading books or using a computer and hence returning to my work, which was highly research intensive. Like most of my Sjogren's symptoms, each day is not exactly like the day before. One day I might be able to read for a couple hours, but then the next day my eyes will ache and hurt no matter how many times I put drops in them or “keep them watered” as I like to say. I also have some corneal damage, probably due to Sjogren's, which makes the pain in one eye more severe than the other. My eyes have windows of opportunity and I try to take advantage of them and then rest my eyes when they are beat and painful. I thought that I would share my eye rituals and some of the products and techniques that I have tried to deal with the dryness. I would love to hear your suggestions and how you combat your dryness.
Eye Drops -- Drops, Drops, and more drops. If you spend any time with me, you will be sure to see me putting drops in my eyes.
a. I use over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops about eight times a day. I tried almost every OTC eye drop over the last few years and the only ones that don’t cause burning and discomfort for me are Refresh Endura by Allergan. They contain the same ingredients found in Restasis without the medicine cyclosporine. I was mortified when Allergan replaced these with Refresh Optive in the United States Market. My eyes were unhappy, dry, and uncomfortable. It turns out that Allergan had stopped selling Refresh Endura in the US; after much Internet sleuthing we learned that the drops are still sold in Canada by www.well.ca. My eyes are very happy to have Refresh Endura again. I know that OTC drops are a personal preference and everyone’s tears are different, but if there is anyone out there who has been looking for Refresh Endura I hope this helps.
b. I also use Restasis four times a day as prescribed by my eye doctor. The active medicine in Restasis is an ophthalmic solution of cyclosporine--an immunosuppressant used to prevent organ rejection in transplant patients and for autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. These drops made a big difference for me as well and, sometimes, when I blink there are actually tears.
c. My doctor has also prescribed Lotemax by Bausch and Lomb, a corticosteroid eye drop to use only when my dry eye pain is extremely severe. It is only to be used sparingly because it can result in side effects such as glaucoma and changes in eye pressure. So, Lotemax is an option of last resort for me, and I only use it at most a few times a month.
In the evening, I always use a lubricant eye ointment. My current ointment of choice is Refresh Sensitive PM, but I have also used GenTeal PM Lubricant. There are many others as well. The ointments are a bit gooey and they make it hard to see. I always put the ointment in just before bed when there is nothing else that I need to do that night. Without using these ointments, it becomes very hard for me to open my eyes the next morning. If I forget to use it one night, my eyes feel like they are sealed shut and are then uncomfortable for the rest of the day. Not worth it to forget the ointment.
Alas, my eyes are telling me it is time to stop or they will rebel and really start to hurt. I am trying to learn to stop when my body starts to tell me to... so more on dry eyes in my next post.