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  • Employer says work conditions have not caused the problem or made it worse

    This is my first post so hello all! I am studying this very helpful website in small amounts and best wishes to you all in managing your dry eye.

    I’m going to try and keep my story / question simple by ignoring plugs, goggles and drops and apologies if this is similar to a question already posted, if so please direct me and I will read the previous responses! Here goes.

    I may have had an ‘underlying medical eye condition’ but if so I was unaware of it. I had been wearing contact lenses day in day out with no problem, doing my job and everything else I wanted to do without thinking twice about it.

    I stared a different job with my employer, it was fairly similar to what I had been doing before but with a slightly higher amount of screen use and a different position in the office which may have meant more noticeable air conditioning. Within a few days of starting the new job it became apparent there was a problem as extreme eye pain flared up in my left eye making it difficult to concentrate. I was very sure the change of job and the air conditioning were the cause of the pain because it went once I was out of the building. Among other things, I stopped wearing contact lenses.

    A year later things had got worse, I could now feel both my eyes dry out within a short time of arriving in work and they stayed that way all day which was really uncomfortable and pain could build up. Once out of work I could start to feel moisture in my eyes again, but maybe not as much as before. For reasons of comfort I stopped things like book reading and using the internet.

    Two years later I developed all sorts of generalised issues such as headaches, backache and a neck spasm. Also facial rosacea which ‘seems to flare up in the workplace’. My eyeballs were full of broken capillaries. My eyes still felt reasonable once I was into a period of annual leave.

    Three years later my eye margins had really started to itch in work. Some crusting had started to happen. The next thing was that the eye margins started to go bright red in work but again the redness went once I was out of the building. I had started to wake up to some very interesting eyelid shapes.

    Four years later my eye margins were red all the time. My job happened to be changed so I was working with a computer screen positioned to my left hand side meaning I was looking to the left all the time and my outer right eye rim started hurting like anything. A divot appeared in this part of the eye rim which seems to match the description of ‘gland drop out’. My eyes now felt dry all the time. The eye margins continue to react especially badly to air conditioning, windy weather and start ‘fizzing’ within the first few moments of trying to use a computer screen.

    By the time I’d stopped working in that job I finally managed to get a Shirmer I test which showed zero tear production in each of my eyes over 5 minutes (a Schirmer II test also very low). I was told this was an extreme result but that the tear film I do have is holding together well which could be why the extent of the problem hasn’t been identified before. It was told it could be Primary Sjogren’s Syndrome although my feeling is not since I have no other symptoms of Sjogren’s and also a year after leaving the job, my left eye had several days of watering uncontrollably all day (leaving salt all over face!) a few days apart each time and then stopped and it has never happened again – doubtful this would be able to happen with Sjogrens? This is as much diagnosis as I have at this time although at various stages in the previous years I was told I had ‘mild anterior blepharitis’ and my optician told me I had ‘partially blocked and slow meibomian glands’ besides the rosacea that developed later. From what I have read it seems I now have fairly severe MGD.

    The employer has always said and continues to very confidently say that the work environment has had nothing to do with eye condition which they say would all have happened anyway. They also say I would have a hard time proving that the eye problem was causing anxiety or a loss of concentration (which baffles me). I am very sure that if I had not been doing that job in that environment my eyes would not be like this now. It felt like a period of intense or accelerated ageing leaving me with a result that may have taken two or three decades to reach otherwise. As I said, I am not going into the various ‘interventions’ I tried but leaving that job may have been the best move!

    My questions are, are there any circumstances where prolonged exposure to adverse conditions could cause a lacrimal gland disorder? If not and I had some sort of pre-existing lacrimal gland deficiency, could the on-going adverse conditions and strain of the eyes trying to cope, make it get worse? Could the adverse conditions have caused the secondary issues such as advanced MGD? Assuming there was very little medical monitoring or information given to me in the early years, does anyone have any thoughts on how I would go about trying to prove this?

  • #2
    Hi. Sorry to hear you are suffering (along with the rest of us). I don't think that exposure to challenging conditions (from the perspective of dry eye) such as low humidity, moving air and computer use could ever directly cause the initial dysfunction in the meibomian and/or lacrimal glands but it could certainly accelerate the progression of the problem due to the damage resulting from the dryness and subsequent sequelae (inflammation, mechanical trauma etc.). These environments don’t bother those without an underlying tear film dysfunction though. When the thin layer of aqueous tears is properly sealed up by a super thin oil layer it’s a pretty indestructible system.

    Are you trying to get compensation from the employer? My suggestion would be to put your energy into treating your condition as I think chasing compensation would unfortunately be fruitless if you had to take the legal route. It does sound like MGD, especially since you have facial rosacea. I do understand trying to fully blame the condition on the work environment when it seems to come on at the exact time you change jobs. My dry eye seemed to come about within days of starting a new job and for a while I thought the environment was the cause but in hindsight it just brought me beyond the tipping point of what my eyes could handle in their fragile state.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by tfour View Post
      My questions are, are there any circumstances where prolonged exposure to adverse conditions could cause a lacrimal gland disorder? If not and I had some sort of pre-existing lacrimal gland deficiency, could the on-going adverse conditions and strain of the eyes trying to cope, make it get worse? Could the adverse conditions have caused the secondary issues such as advanced MGD? Assuming there was very little medical monitoring or information given to me in the early years, does anyone have any thoughts on how I would go about trying to prove this?
      I think that while it may very well be possible that prolonged exposure to adverse conditions could case a lacrimal gland disorder, from the description of your job, it is doubtful that you could make a good case for it in your situation - it sounds like a typical office work environment that most people can handle just fine - you were clearly the exception, but that doesn't necessarily mean it was the fault of the employer or the workplace - instead, it's probably just bad luck that YOUR particular eyes were abnormally sensitive to whatever stresses the job placed on them.

      Originally posted by Spoon View Post
      Are you trying to get compensation from the employer? My suggestion would be to put your energy into treating your condition as I think chasing compensation would unfortunately be fruitless if you had to take the legal route. It does sound like MGD, especially since you have facial rosacea. I do understand trying to fully blame the condition on the work environment when it seems to come on at the exact time you change jobs. My dry eye seemed to come about within days of starting a new job and for a while I thought the environment was the cause but in hindsight it just brought me beyond the tipping point of what my eyes could handle in their fragile state.
      Well said. I agree with Spoon, and think your energies are best spent in treating the condition, rather than looking for compensation. Odds are that your situation is like Spoon's, where it wasn't the job itself, but simply that the demands of the job brought your eyes to the tipping point where dry eye and/or MGD symptoms became very obvious.
      Yet another post-Lasik (2005)...
      Anyone have a time machine so I can go back and undo this mess?

      Comment


      • #4
        When you reported medical changes, did they change the environment for you? eg a/c adaptations, anti-glare screen? I think there's good in getting the story out there to help other people, especially now 'computer vision syndrome' is common, so that employers have to pay for adaptations and screen breaks, and schools promote the health issues.
        Paediatric ocular rosacea ~ primum non nocere

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        • #5
          Thank you for your replies Spoon, SAAG and Little Mermaid. Yes I agree Spoon that there must have been a weakness there (even if it didn't feel like it at the time) and yes I am now into my readjustment period and am looking forward (as well as backward just for the moment!). As and when I can manage, I will read more on this website and am interested in the 'Dry Eye Remedy' book that has been mentioned a lot, there's clearly lots to investigate.

          Littlemermaid - I left a lot out of the story, but you are right in thinking that my employers made no adjustments. It was a massive company and whatever suggestions I made along the way were knocked back for one reason or another. It wouldn't have been costly or inconvenient for them to have set me up working at home with a humidifier for example or look into transferring me into a job that didn't involve as much screen work. If they had done this then maybe I would still have a job. To anyone that happens to be reading, I would say that if you are having problems with workplace conditions, make sure that you know your employers responsibilites to adjust those conditions wherever reasonably possible and keep asking if necessary!!

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          • #6
            tfour, Have you found another type of work that doesn't affect your eyes? I am thinking that to address this kind of problem it's best done as a group, either to raise awareness or put pressure on employers to make the environment safer. I think step one is to find people lobbying on the same issues to share the burden. It's a lonely and expensive path otherwise unless you have an employees' Union. Your health comes first, then worrying about pursuing progress on this.
            Paediatric ocular rosacea ~ primum non nocere

            Comment


            • #7
              Hi littlemermaid I wasn't in the union when the problem arose otherwise I think things would have been different (I am in the UK by the way). I did get help from them but very late in the day and more or less when it was 'game over'. As has been pointed out, the problem was more with my eyes (not working properly) than with an 'unsafe' working environment as such although that doesn't let my employers off the hook with making adjustments. The Sjogrens Association and the RNIB were very supportive and informative but again, very late on in the story. So I would say to anyone reading who has the option of joining a union to make sure you join before a problem arises - don't just wait for one to happen!! I also think this website is a great place to pool information and for support since it seems hard for people to understand eye problems (including some Doctors unfortunately) especially when most of the time you look more or less healthy.

              I did start another job on nowhere near the money I was making in my previous job but I'm still looking for something long-term. I really can't get through more study and I need to be able to control my own environment so at the moment I'm looking for things that will work with the eye condition rather than things I'm good at, skilled or experienced in. Jobs are already scarce where I live so add this to the mix and it's quite a challenge! (The drop in wage is making me not very happy..)

              I will post again with a list of products that I have found helpful and I have masses of questions and research I want to do but my posts may be few and far between because I'm so little on-line. In the meantime thank you again for your support, it is appreciated!

              Comment


              • #8
                Sounds familiar. It took me years of suffering before I can now say my eyes are affected by my work environment. Now while I'm being treated my eyes are pretty good on my days off and burn at work under the air vents and fluorescent lights. It isn't a mystery that more and more people are suffering. Fluorescent lighting isn't natural. And industrial heating and cooling aren't good for us either. Yet my workplace refuses to do anything. Saying it's my sensitivity. Yet multiple staff have issues. I'm just lucky to have a extreme case. I work in a hospital. Yet they haven't made a single effort to protect my health. And I struggle daily within a hour of arriving to work.

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