Anyone who knows me well will tell you I like my sleep. I like to be fast asleep by 11 p.m. and up by 7 a.m. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember and am most definitely a morning person. A nap on a lazy weekend afternoon isn’t out of the question either. But something happened early last year that has really messed up my sleeping habits and has me up anywhere from 2-6 times/night. Every night. And I think it’s going to drive me insane.
Maybe (although I hope not) you can relate?
So, once in a while I write about stuff that has nothing to do with expat life or France. So if you’re here for those two things, this isn’t the post for you. Today’s post is about a medical issue that I haven’t had any luck in getting treatment for. I’ve been dealing with this for about a year and a half now and have seen two doctors about it, but nothing seems to really help and I’m not happy with the new normal. I’m talking about my eyes.
So first, some background:
I’ve worn glasses since I was in third grade and switched to contacts that I wore pretty much daily from around age 13 until five years ago. My eyes just rejected contact lenses one day. I developed giant papillary conjunctivitis that made it feel like something was constantly in my eye (and the underside of the lid would get little white bumps) so I figured the irritation wasn’t worth it and found some sweet glasses. Silhouette is my favorite brand — light as air and you honestly don’t even know they’re on your face.
Anyway, it’s no secret I use the computer a lot both for work and play. I’m probably in front of a screen for 12 hours/day in some capacity. I also know that eye strain and dry eyes are issues many people face but figured I had lucked out because I never had any real issues with either.
Then one of the most physically painful — if not THE most painful — thing happened one night in March 2014.
There were no signs leading up to it. I was sleeping and woke up for whatever reason and upon opening my eyes, the right one was so dry that my eyelid “scraped” against my eyeball. It felt like someone had dragged a needle across my eye while pressing down. I instantly froze and my body’s automatic reaction was to squeeze my eyes shut as hard as humanly possibly. For a good five minutes, I stayed like that with tears involuntarily streaming out of my eyes. I was paralyzed by pain in my bed still half asleep mentally but knowing full well something was very wrong. After about 30 minutes, I was able to keep my eye open but every time I blinked, it killed. I sweat through my pajamas.
For two days. It was hard to even keep my eyes open and try to go about my day. I tried to get in to see an ophthalmologist but making a same-day appointment with a doctor as a new client in France is about as easy as becoming fluent in French overnight.
My mother-in-law managed to get me an appointment a few days later, though. The ophthalmologist examined my eyes and said everything was 100% normal and that next time I need to just walk in RIGHT after the issue happens. Don’t call, just come in. He explained if I did scratch my cornea, it begins healing immediately and won’t leave a trace of any damage days later. He said my eyes were probably dry due to computer use (which hadn’t really increased recently) and to put in some drops and some cream he prescribed.
I rushed to the pharmacy to get my meds willing to do whatever it took to stop this from ever happening again. I had high hopes but after a few days of use, the drops made my eyes feel even more dry and the gel just gunked up my eye and made them too goopy and slow to even blink normally. After two weeks of that, I gave up because I felt worse.
I hoped that painful night was a one-time occurrence but nope. The same thing happened two more times (maybe three but I blocked it from memory) to a lesser extent though. To help prevent the stabbing pain, the only thing that relieves my eyes is to use these tubes of wetting drops overnight. Every night. I think it’s making me crazy.
Since last March, I’ve woken up every single night without fail to put drops in my eyes anywhere from 2-6 times.
On average, I’d say 2-3 times per night.
Right after the first incident, I was waking up more I think out of fear, proactively waking up naturally to put in drops. I was scared to go to sleep (and remember, I love to sleep). I was so scared of having the stabbing pain (really, the worst pain ever) that I’d rather wake up every 20 minutes all night long than risk having the pain come back. As time has gone on, I manage to sleep but never for more than a couple of hours before having to wake up, feeling some dryness, and putting in a few drops of the wetting solution to prevent disaster. Before, I could sleep through a thunderstorm rarely waking up during the night and sleep for 8 hours straight. No more.
Even when I’ve reduced my screen time, I still find myself having dry eyes at night. This never happens during the day ever and I don’t feel the dryness creeping in until around 10 p.m. The dryness happens on vacation, in hotel rooms, at my in-laws’ house, etc., and is not something that just happens when I’m home in my own bed. What gives? I’ve only heard of people in their 50s and upwards experiencing this kind of thing. Is it from too much screen time? Is there something that will help me? Is this the new normal? I guess time will tell.
Anyone out there have a similar eye issue?
Update: I wrote this post months ago but wasn’t sure when I’d post it. Seems fitting for this week with my other issues. 😉 Since I wrote it, I got a new pair of glasses (last week actually) with a special coating that helps filter blue light from computer screens. So once I’ve worn them for a while, I’ll write an update to this post to see if they’ve helped me any.
Ooooh this made me cringe so hard! Pain in your eyes is the worst pain. The whole thing sounds completely hellish. I’ve had a scratched cornea before but I don’t think it was quite as bad as this ( or maybe I’ve just blocked out the memory). I also wore contacts for about fifteen years and my eyes totally rejected them one day. I’ve been wearing glasses for a couple years and I still don’t feel like I look like myself. I hope your new glasses will do the trick to help your eyes.
Yah, it really sucks. Things could be a lot worse, I get that, but dealing with something day after day with no real cure is really tiring. So weird that your eyes said adios to contacts too. I’m sure you look great in glasses 😉 Thanks for your support
My wife has sensitive eyes that actually can become inflamed. She has to use special drops for “dry eyes” especially when being in the Sun alot. Also overuse of computer is also a factor to some degree. I will ask her if they are prescription and the name. But “dry” eyes is a technical diagnosis. Will get more info from her and then post.
Thanks so much, Todd. Really appreciate it! And sorry your wife has a similar issue. Hope all is well!
Todd V says
She can’t remember the eye drops that were prescription when her eyes were inflamed. However, she now uses Systane Balance eyedrops on a regular basis.
Thank you, Todd. I will look into the Systane ones!
Hey Diane! I’m so, so sorry to hear about your eye issues! Eyes have some of the highest concentrations of nerves in the body, which explains your intense pain. Do you have air conditioning in your bedroom? I’ve experienced extreme eye dryness from A/C here in Houston (worse than computer eye fatigue). Another possibility could be that your eyes aren’t fully closed as you sleep. Best of luck – I’m surprised that the doctors haven’t been able to get to the bottom of this for you!
I WISH I had a/c! Not only is it not in the bedroom, it’s nowhere in the house! But I know sometimes that contributes. I’ve tried a humidifier and that didn’t help. I read about the eyes not closing too and had Tom check but he said they are closed. I’ll have to have him check again. I find that doctors are very hit or miss. Either awesome or have no clue. Will keep working through this. Thank you for your comment and help. Hope Texas is treating you guys well!
So sorry you are going through this. Can you get a second opinion ? Seems you should seek out another doctor or two…
Thank you, I’ve already seen two docs and I think I’m at the point where I can manage it now so it’s bearable and I know how to prevent the scratching pain from happening and am mad that it takes months to see a new specialist (who may or may not be helpful). Since no one has found issues with my eyes, I’m hoping it’s computer use-related and my new glasses will cut down on the glare. Then hoping for a miracle.
10 Essentials to Save Your SIGHT by Edward C Kondrot might be a good book to check out. I heard it was good but have not read it myself.
Will check it out. Thanks so much for the recommendation!
Try putting a humidifier in your room, or at least water in something near the bed so it can evaporate and moisten the air. That might help a little… It sounds miserable! Maybe you have “chronic dry eye” like those Restasis eye drops commercials here in the U.S.. Maybe that stuff would help?
I did that and no change at all. Just made for frizzy hair! ;-( Thank you for the suggestion though
Ugh! I’m sorry I laughed at that. 🙂 The last thing you need is frizzy hair on top of this problem!
Oh my goodness, I understand even thought my health issues haven’t been with the eyes. I was diagnosed with a form cancer that is very rare in anyone under 70 ! It was a carcinoma that actually can destroy the face. My doctors could never find the root cause as every medical test for other conditions came up negative. So these things do happen, lucky us. I believe that you will heal from the condition. Sometimes home remedies work well too. A wash cloth soaked in warm water over the eyes as a compress can work wonders during your down time. You can nurture yourself with soft music or just quiet thoughts. The herb Eyebright made into a tea is great a well. You can make the tea and let it cool to lukewarm and place the clothes over your eyes. Just make sure that you don’t have an allergy to this herb. I’m sending positive thoughts of healing your way !
Look into Ayurveda. I remember Yogi Cameron (he has a show) rubbing oil into his lower eyelids, nostrils, and everywhere. every night. Maybe that would help moisturize them!
Paula H says
I just ran across this article and thought of you
Thank you for sending that, Paula. Just started reading. I couldn’t imagine having that kind of pain nightly or not having any remedy to help prevent it like the people in the article. At least nightly drops are helping me and although it’s too soon to say, I think my new glasses w/the coating are as well. 🙁 Thx again for sending!