Dealing with dry eyes in a Northeast winter is always a challenge. Even as ours has been milder, so far (knock on wood—or not, given that the planet is warming) there’s just no escape from dry heat indoors, regardless of source. Some solve this with a humidifier, but I’ve found them difficult to keep mold-free.
My solution for my Sjogren’s for the past year-and-half, in additions to Restasis® eye drops, has been scleral contact lenses. I’m very fortunate to live a ten-minute drive from a college that specializes in health sciences, including optometry, with an excellent dry eye clinic. Dr. S, who teaches the optometry students, is a fountain of creative solutions for my eye problems and has been my guide and cheerleader as I’ve learned how to wear the lenses.
So, when I showed up for my annual check-up last week, he and the third-year student who attended me were concerned that I’m once again struggling with my dry eyes, despite the scleral contacts. The issue this time is not allergies, as it was last spring, easily solved with antihistamine eye drops. Even with the lenses inserted, the part of my eye not covered by the lenses dries out too quickly, due to the dry air at home. I need to use saline drops frequently to keep them moistened, so I’ve taken to only wearing them a couple of times a week, when I am sure I can use the drops often. But when I go for a couple of days without wearing them, my eyes get gunked up and my vision, bleary. Not fun.
Dr. S listened carefully, and then came up with another brainstorm. He had samples of a new nasal spray that is designed to treat dry eyes, called Tyrvaya®. You read that right. A nasal spray for dry eyes. There’s a trick to spraying it—you have to aim it inside your nostril toward your ear. And definitely don’t inhale, because it really stings. But miraculously, after trying this for several days, I find that my eyes are producing more tears—enough, in fact, that I can go much longer wearing my contacts without the saline drops.
Fun fact, as part of this education: Even for those without dry eyes, we all blink less when staring at a computer screen. For me, this lack of blinking becomes a big issue, exacerbating my dryness. Dr. S had another ingenious solution: an app that reminds you to blink. So I’ve added the Blinks app to my iMac. Basically, it’s an image of an eye that pops up according to the schedule you set, and blinks, then disappears. I’ve just started experimenting with it, so I cannot yet assess, but I pass that along as an option.
I don’t yet know what Tyrvaya costs once the samples run out, and I’m betting it will involved more mishegas with insurance coverage. But so far, it seems well worth trying. Will keep you posted at a later date about my progress, Dear Reader. In the meantime, remember to blink!
Image: Petri Heiskanen