A Personal Quest for Relief from Dry Eye

A Personal Quest for Relief from Dry Eye

15 years of dry eye suffering leads entrepreneur to commit his life to developing better products for those who suffer from chronic dry eye

San Diego based entrepreneur, product development expert, and outdoor enthusiast - Justin Mendelson has always been drawn towards building products and solving difficult problems. He has founded companies in a variety of industries and built products used by billions of people at companies such as Meta (fka Facebook) and Visa. Outside of his professional life, Justin surfs and dives regularly near his home in San Diego, backpacks California’s national parks, and enjoys playing with his puppy Summer.

We sat down with our company founder Justin to better understand his dry eye journey, how it influenced the way he lives his life, and what he’s learned along the way.

Here’s what he had to say.

When did you realize you had dry eye?

It was 2011, I was in my early 20s, and I had an extensive battle with pink eye. I was prescribed antibiotic eye drops and told not to wear glasses for two weeks. After the pink eye subsided, my eyes started to feel dry, irritated, and scratchy. Contacts become extremely uncomfortable.

I saw several different optometrists who conducted Schirmer tear tests and noted I had tear deficiency. I was put on steroid drops at first, then Restasis, then encouraged to try Lipiflow. None of it helped. After a few years, I learned to just ‘live with it’ (dry eye), began carrying around preservative free eye drops wherever I went, and permanently switched from contacts to glasses. Unfortunately symptoms just got worse over time. 

What was it like when your dry eye was at its worst?

My symptoms were at their worst at the beginning of the covid lockdown in 2020. At that time things were extremely dire. This is going to sound extreme, but the best way I could describe the feeling is if someone taped your eyelids open and put a fan in front of your face. The feeling of dryness and irritation just doesn't go away. Dry eye weighed on my mind 24/7. I struggled to leave the house without intense eye pain. I was using drops every 5-10 minutes. I would wake up every hour or two at night to re-apply gel drops. I was miserable and I was losing hope that I would even be able to work considering my need to look at a computer screen to do my job.

What has worked for you?

It’s amazing how resilient human beings are, particularly when faced with extreme adversity. Being in such dire straits led me to take my dry eye care much more seriously. I found an amazing dry eye specialist, Dr. Harvey Fishman in Palo Alto California who was finally able to help me. After all the standard dry eye tests (schirmer's tear tests, meibography, etc), he simply proposed taking a slow motion video of my blink.

As it turns out, I have incomplete blink which was never diagnosed by the many specialists I had seen for over a decade. By better understanding the root cause of my dry eye we were able to devise a better treatment plan. Dr. Fishman was also the first to propose a three prong treatment strategy: daytime, nighttime, and Neuropathic pain.

What has worked best for me has been punctal plugs in all four ducts and platelet rich plasma eye drops during the day which preserves the tears I have and helps mitigate the neuropathic pain I have developed. At night I use Muro 128 and a dry eye moisture mask which has finally enabled me to sleep through the night. I also take omega supplements daily to improve the quality of my tear film.

Any advice for others suffering from severe dry eye?

Make sure you’re looking out for your health and becoming an advocate for yourself. Managing dry eye is a lifelong undertaking and you’re not going to find a magic bullet, nor one healthcare provider, that is going to solve all of your problems. You’re going to hit dead ends, and that’s OK. Maybe you see one provider, they’ve gone through their list of solutions they’re aware of, but you’re still not getting anywhere. That’s OK, there's always a path forward, there’s always hope. Just because you met with one provider, or two or three without success, doesn’t mean you should give up. Join a dry eye Facebook group, talk to other people in similar situations. Pick their brain on varying strategies. Different treatment plans and different types of providers work for different people. 

What new treatments are you most excited about?

I’ve tried nearly every (approved) dry eye treatment that exists on the market, so I’m always keeping a look out for new treatment modalities to try. I recently heard about Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Therapy which most commonly is used to treat MGD, Rosacea, and Blepharitis. However I was talking to Dr. Fishman and reading a few papers recently that noted IPL’s benefit to reducing inflammation in and around the eye area. I’m a big believer in minimizing local and chronic inflammation in the body so plan to do a few IPL treatments myself in the next few months.

What’s next for you?

After many years of struggle, I decided to commit my life towards developing better products for eye health and chronic dry eye relief. I spent the last three years developing the Blinkjoy Moisture Retaining Sleep Mask for Dry Eye Relief, and now working on numerous exciting products for at home dry eye therapy. My hope is to make dry eye products more accessible for people (better looking, more comfortable) so they can maintain hydrated healthy eyes, hopefully before symptoms become severe.

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