Gambling addict, 24, diagnosed with eye disease – after hours glued to screens
A gaming fanatic was diagnosed with painful eye disease at the age of just 24 – after spending hours staring at screens.
Intern planner Natalie Burns was just 18 and studying graphic design in college in 2014, when she first became light sensitive and had stabbing pains in her eyes.
The disease typically affects people twice her age and left her eyes red, itchy and tired, leading to a diagnosis of dry eye.
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More common in people over 50, dry eye occurs when people experience decreased tear production.
According to the NHS, this can be caused by staring at a computer screen for a long time without taking a sufficient break.
Blaming herself for her diagnosis Natalie, who is originally from Glasgow, Scotland but now lives in North Woolwich, east London, said: âI spent a lot of time being mad at myself.
âThis disease is technically preventable, which is so frustrating.
“I feel like I could have prevented it, which sounds really silly, but it’s one of those things you end up fighting for when you get diagnosed.”
She continued, âI had to go to support groups and talk to people who are going through the same thing to understand that I am not alone in this situation.
âI try to stay positive and hope I can find a treatment that works for me soon. “
Natalie’s nightmare began in December 2014 when she began to suffer from sensitivity to light.
She said: âIt seemed to happen overnight. I woke up one morning and noticed clicking noises in my eyes when I blinked.
“Things progressed from there.”
As her symptoms worsened, she began to experience burning and tingling sensations as well as constant itching, throbbing pain, and tired red eyes.
She said, âI started to have shooting pains in my eyes, my eyeballs were red, it was awful.
“When I went to the doctor, I was diagnosed with dry eye.”
According to the NHS, dry eye syndrome, or dry eye disease, is a common condition that occurs when the eyes don’t tear enough or evaporate too quickly.
Common causes include contact lenses, staring at computer screens for a long time without interruption, and spending time in air-conditioned or heated environments.
Natalie said, âAt the time, I was studying in a graphic design class, so I would spend 9 am to 4 pm five days a week in front of a computer screen.
âThen I would go home and play video games at night. “
She continued, âI love to gamble, but when I realized that so much time in front of the computer was probably the root cause of my condition, I was devastated and just as angry with myself.
“It took a while to come to terms with it, because I struggled for a long time to feel angry with myself about it.”
Natalie says doctors prescribed various treatments for her, including eye drops and gels, and she frequently switched to generalist surgery, hoping to find a perfect cure.
She said, âMy eyes are not as bad as they were when I was first diagnosed, but I still have a lot of trouble with them.
âBefore, I only had three good days a week. Now I would say it’s about 50% of the week when my eyes are ablaze.
âI’m still looking for the right treatment for me, however. I have yet to find one that I am completely satisfied with.
While Natalie is still battling dry eye, she has also had to limit her screen time.
She said: âSometimes I am still able to play computer games, but on my bad days it is too tiring for my eyes.
âI have regular check-ups with my optician and I still don’t know what the solution will be.
She added, âI’m lucky to have a job now that doesn’t really involve computers.
“When the lock was lifted, I was so relieved to get back to work, as there was no escape from the TV and computer screens during the lockdown.”
Today, Natalie hopes to raise awareness about dry eye disease.
It currently affects one in four people in the UK, and 43% of those polled in a new YouGov poll of 2,000 Britons experienced relevant symptoms.
But, despite its prevalence, the survey commissioned by eye care experts ThÃ©a found that 36% of those surveyed had no idea of ââthe symptoms of dry eye.
Natalie said, “It’s a very common condition, but maybe it’s a disease that is often overlooked by the public.”
She continued, âI had never heard of it before my diagnosis and it affected my life tremendously.
âIt’s normally a disease that affects older people, but more and more young people are being diagnosed with it.
“I hope I find something soon that can ease the pain I find myself in.”
Optometrist and dry eye expert Sarah Farrant believes dry eye can have a ripple effect on a person’s well-being.
She said: âAs we get older, our tears are often not able to lubricate our eyes as effectively as when we were younger.
âThe surface of the eyes is dry, which can trigger reflex liquid tears, making the eyes cry, but the problem is that the tears don’t contain the right lubricants. “
She continued, âDry eye has a ripple effect on the well-being of people because it can really interfere with everyday life.
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âWhen left untreated, discomfort can have a huge impact on the mental health and well-being of those affected.
“My best advice would be to not suffer in silence and talk to your local optometrist or pharmacist about dry eye disease, as there are many options that can help you manage it.”
To learn more about the symptoms of dry eye, visit www.youreyehealth.co.uk/symptom-checker