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‘It affects everything’ – Woman warns of ‘bizarre’ onset of common eye condition

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Having begun as just watery, gritty and irritated eyes, Margaret, who lives in Northern Ireland, shared that she struggled to understand why these symptoms suddenly developed. She even turned to natural remedies that she had been taught from her parents such as placing cucumbers on her eyes to relax inflammation. Sharing her story with, Margaret hopes to encourage others not to ignore symptoms, and to discuss options with their optometrist as soon as possible to avoid the condition worsening.

“I couldn’t understand why because I’ve never had this experience before,” Margaret shared.

“I thought ‘this is so bizarre’. So I started to use natural remedies as I had been taught throughout the years from my parents. Nothing was working. That was not the end of it.”

Frustrated with her irritating symptoms, Margaret went to her local pharmacist in a bid to try and curb her “really sore symptoms”.

She continued to say: “At that stage my eyes started to get really sore and started to crack. If water spews out of your eyes, the natural thing to do is to dab them, especially if you are wearing eye makeup.

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“So the watering coming out of my eyes along with the salt content was breaking the skin around the eye. And the skin around the eye is very delicate, so it wasn’t a pretty sight.

When suffering from flare-ups Margaret explained that she regularly feels self-conscious and embarrassed in public when her eyes are puffy or sore which has an impact on the rest of the family too.

As a business development manager for a catering company, most of her work is face to face, making meetings with colleagues and clients even worse. Her dry eyes have, and still do, impact her work, particularly when she has a flare-up.

She added: “Due to the nature of my work I deal with clients on a face-to-face basis, so I was getting very upset about my presentation because my makeup wasn’t right. My eyes were so puffy. And it definitely affects your mood.

“It just affects everything.”

Dry eye disease is estimated to affect millions of individuals, with those who wear contact lenses, are over the age of 50, or those who look at computer screens for a long time without a break, putting themselves at a higher risk.
For Margaret, there are several different triggers, one of the main ones being stress. In fact, studies have found a correlation between psychological stress and dry eye symptoms.

One cross-sectional study included 209 students at a medical school in Korea. Researchers assessed dry eye symptoms by using a nine-point questionnaire, the Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI) and visual analog scale (VAS).

The subjects also participated in a survey that included demographic data, potential risk factors for dry eye, personal habits and psychological stress.

“Soon I thought ‘enough is enough’ because I was getting sore heads. I was getting sore heads from the irritation and being so upset about it.

“So I went to the GP and she just said I had hay fever and was prescribed antihistamines. I wasn’t happy with that but when you are living a busy life and you’re working and managing a family it happens.

“After 10 days there was no sort of improvement. I said ‘I am at the end of my tether’ so I booked an appointment with an optometrist. Even though I had never had an eye complaint”.

Margaret was finally given the diagnosis she had been wanting, and has now been living with the condition for 12 years. Along with dry eye disease, she was also diagnosed with blepharitis – a condition caused by the glands not producing enough oil inside the eyelids.

“At this stage I had been dealing with the condition for maybe two to three months so I said to the optometrist ‘Oh come on, you are having a laugh’ but she said ‘I am being serious Margaret.’”

It is important to note that if left untreated dry eye disease can lead to numerous health problems such as:

  • Eye infections
  • Eye inflammation
  • Abrasion of the corneal surface
  • Corneal ulcers
  • Severe cases of vision loss.

For Margaret this was something that scared her the most. She added: “Eyes are very important like every other organ within the body. [I was warned] that ulceration can happen, so the seriousness of the whole thing hit. My biggest fear in life now is if I was to ever get an ulcer on my eye.”

Using the following analogy Margaret stressed how important eye health is to her. She said: “If you thought about what you do in a day, if you go for a coffee in the morning or you are meeting some girlfriends after work. You are probably having coffee out several times a week. And if you think what you spend on your Costa or Starbucks, if you were to take two of those, that’s the cost of an eye examination.”

After her ongoing ordeal and battle to be taken seriously by medical professionals, Margaret has finally figured out how to control her dry eye flare-ups, reducing the risk of it getting much worse. In addition to recognising signs of when a flare-up is about to happen, she uses appropriate Théa Pharmaceuticals eyelid cleansing wipes to keep her eyes clean and a preservative-free eye drop to keep her eyes hydrated.

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