Most people know rosacea is a condition of the skin, but did you know it can affect the eyes as well? My rosacea actually started as a rash around my eyes. Over time, it spread to the rest of my face and even to my ears and down my neck. Eventually, my eyelids started to swell and I would awaken in the morning with crusted over eyes. The eyeballs themselves were looking more and more red, bloodshot, and felt constantly irritated, dry, and scratchy. By mid-afternoon, I was having blurry vision. I’ve always had auto-immune related dry eyes, so I was used to some of these symptoms, but after my first rosacea flare, it felt like my eye issues just ramped up in severity. This was more than my typical dry eye.
Yes, this is a picture of my very own eye. Not pretty. When my eye problems continued even after initial rosacea treatment, I made an appointment with my ophthalmologist. He agreed this was rosacea involvement and after examining my eyes, he told me I had a condition called blepharitis as well. Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids and it goes along with rosacea. Even now, I can’t really tell how much is dry eye and how much is rosacea. The doctor assures me it doesn’t really matter anyway because it’s all connected.
Treatment for me included oral antibiotics (which was already prescribed from the dermatologist), antibiotic eye drops for a week, continued use of gel lubricating drops which I had been using prior to my appointment, and a morning and evening routine of ten-minute hot compresses to the eyes followed by eye scrubs with an over the counter product. (From ophthalmologist instruction in the past, I had learned to thoroughly wash my eyes along with my entire face and then to use a washcloth with additional gentle cleanser to the eyes. I’ve also used hot compresses in the past for my dry eye condition.)
After sticking to this routine for two weeks, I did see some improvement. At first, the eye scrub product felt very abrasive to my eyelids, but I stuck with it and let the product do its work without applying too much pressure. I have noticed some breakage of the eyelashes and even some eyelashes which have fallen out. (This will be a follow up discussion with the eye doctor.) I get up very early to go to work, so sticking to the ten-minute soaks in the morning was the most difficult part of the routine. (Lately I’ve slacked off of this in the morning just due to the time constraint and I definitely have noticed some regression in my eyes.) I am really enjoying the soaks at night. It has become part of my routine to unwind at the end of the day and it does feel so soothing to my eyes. I’ve made it a little more fun by using the time to listen to my favorite YouTube dermatologist videos during this time. In the mornings, I was using the time to prepare for the day by listening to praise and worship songs. I’m definitely getting back to this.
At a follow up visit with the ophthalmologist, a steroid eye drop was added into my routine, twice a day for a week and then down to once a day as needed. Overall, I am glad I went to the ophthalmologist. There was not any one thing that was a miracle worker, but all these things together have given a bit more improvement in my eyes. The whites of my eyes are still quite red. I asked the doctor about Lumify eye drops which I had seen in stores. Unfortunately for me, although they whitened my eyes pretty immediately, the result did not last more than about an hour. They’re expensive also. I do believe the steroid eye drop has helped a bit with the discomfort during the day. I’ve noticed I’m not thinking quite as often about how uncomfortable they feel.
If you are in a rosacea flare and you think your eyes are possibly affected, I would encourage you to seek out an ophthalmologist. Be prepared for some work on your part, but with some diligence which you can begin to view as self-care (you might actually enjoy it!), your eyes can improve! This eye stuff has caused me to think a lot about eyes. As a believer in Christ, it reminds me of Psalm 17:8, “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” To be the apple of someone’s eye is to be completely cherished! I’ve also heard it explained before that this expression of being the apple of someone’s eye comes from the tiny reflection we can see of ourselves when we look in someone’s eye who is also looking at us. So, when we ask God to keep us as the apple of His eye, we are yearning for God to keep his close eye on us! It may seem like you are super focused on what you are going through right now, but take some time to think of the big picture and put things in perspective. We are never outside of God’s eye and we are cherished by Him more than we can even comprehend.