Corneal Neuralgia

Corneal neuralgia (CN) is a bit like Alzheimer’s Diease in that there is no one test to say you have it. When the ophthalmology community can’t figure out what is causing your unrelenting eye pain caused by light exposure, it is my understanding that they give it what they call a “floating diagnosis” of corneal neuralgia.

This level of light sensitivity isn’t like when you flinch when you see a really bright light, but rather it is like the hot, searing pain of a torch being held to your eyes, along with the stabbing pain of what feels like razor blades jabbing into them over and over. Pain radiates outward to the face, cheekbones and head, intensifying with prolonged exposure.

The cause of my CN is unknown but some reported cases have had various causes such as LASIK surgery, x-ray burns, chlorine burns, uv light burns, cataract surgery, as well as Sjogren’s syndrome and other autoimmune diseases.

For me, my pain started with itchy and scratchy eyes after I came in from mowing my lawn one sunny May day in 2007 and progressed to the point, about five years later, where I would have the headaches and eye searing pain even while I was inside my own home with the blinds closed. At one point, I was forced to remain inside my home 24/7, covering all windows and sources of natural sunlight. Even a sliver of light creeping in between blind and window casing caused unbearable pain.

As of yet, there is no cure for corneal neuralgia. Only symptoms are treated. Some people have had success using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) but daily use of NSAIDs will make the medication ineffective plus it is very hard on your liver and stomach.

Like some CN sufferers, I protect my eyes with PROSE (Prosthetic Replacement of the Ocular Surface Ecosystem) lenses. Available at BostonSight in Needham, Massachusetts, these special lenses have improved my blurred vision by masking surface corneal irregularities and have helped relieve some of the symptoms. I am told they also prevent additional damage by protecting my corneas.

I also have installed Solartek blinds in my home to block UV ray light and use dimmers to vary the light depending on my pain levels. If I get too close to certain things in order to see better, I get a sharp shooting pain across my forehead. It limits what I can perform when it comes to some basic tasks. Brightness of computer monitors, cell phones and televisions have become a source of pain rather than ones of entertainment.

I also cannot use my eyes for long periods of time due to increased pain and blurred vision. Audio books and e-readers using minimal light and increased fonts have helped but many of my hobbies have had to be minimized or eliminated.

For the pain, some people use relaxation techniques, guided imagery, exercise, yoga and other chronic pain therapies with varying success. For me, my drawing has helped a great deal. While it does not take away the pain, it does help take my main focus away from the pain.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul, then it seems appropriate, ironic even, that when I draw, it`s all about the eyes. Of all my drawings, this tiger speaks to me most. His eyes say, “I am fierce. I am strong. I will survive.” Tigers prefer to stay out of sight and hunt at night when it is dark. They fight when they must. I am like a tiger. I thrive at night after the sun has set. When pushed to my limit, I fight. I am fierce. I am strong. I embrace what I can still do. I leave the rest behind.

That has brought me to my drawing. Some say, when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. I say when life hands you limes, make lime tree art!