Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes' new book, "The Emergency Doctor's Guide to Healing Dry Eyes", investigates the causes of dry eyes, sorts through the pertinent evidence and studies, and provides ways to treat the affliction, all the while presenting the material in an easy-to-follow, conversational tone. (Photo: Clark McGillis)

Local doctor pens new guide for dry-eye sufferers

Quick: what’s a good way to deal with dry eyes in a pinch? If you didn’t say “prick your finger and rub some of your own blood onto your eyeballs”, you may want to take a deeper look into the most recent research.

Luckily, local emergency doctor and author, Dr. Melissa Yuan-Innes, has written a new book dealing with precisely that issue, titled “The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to Healing Dry Eyes”.

In the book, Dr. Yuan-Innes investigates the causes of dry eyes, sorts through the pertinent evidence and studies, and provides ways to treat the affliction, all the while presenting the material in an easy-to-follow, conversational tone. As she explains, “The people who usually write about this topic are experts and always want to make it sound like they’re educated and that they know what they’re talking about. For me, I have the credentials, I know what I’m talking about. And so, I think it’s actually just more important that people understand the material.”

While Yuan-Innes acknowledges that fewer people are affected by dry eyes than back pain—the topic of her last non-fiction medical book—she says the affliction is surprisingly widespread, especially among older women. She adds that one in four people go to their optometrists complaining about dry eyes and that the number of those affected is only going to increase in a world where most people are staring at screens most of the day.

“I think it’s definitely something that’s becoming more and more common.”

Experiencing with her own eyes

Like her previous work, “The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to Back Pain”, Dr. Yuan-Innes drew from her own experience in writing the new book on dry eyes.

She describes driving home from shifts in the emergency room with her eyes crying “fire tears”. She would start tearing uncontrollably, to the point where she was unable to see and would be forced to pull over. To make matters worse, when she initially sought treatment for the condition, she wasn’t able to make much progress towards a solution, given the topic’s relative obscurity.

“I went to an ophthalmologist I knew in the emergency department and asked him if he’d ever heard of someone’s own tears hurting them. He said no. So I thought, ‘Oh, it’s just me then. Great’.”

She eventually went to another opthalmologist friend, Dr. Christine Suess who had signs for dry eye awareness in her office. Though she now felt a little embarrassed to ask about her eye condition after her earlier efforts, she says Dr. Suess’ own eyes lit up when she asked about the affliction.

“It turns out Dr. Suess was very passionate about dry eyes,” Dr. Yuan-Innes says. “She ran some tests and told me that while most people’s tears last ten seconds, mine only last three.”

Yuan-Innes came to find out that her eyes were constantly producing emergency tears, due to her regular tears being so short-lived. Dr. Suess recommended that Dr. Yuan-Innes place a warm compress over her eyes to help stimulate her meibomian glands, which produce the oil that helps keep tears from evaporating as quickly. Dr. Yuan-Innes says she saw a near immediate improvement in her dry-eye situation after trying out the Dr. Suess suggestion.

“I put [the compress] on mornings and sometimes at night. I definitely noticed a difference after doing it for a few days.”

Teaching the treatments

As laid out in her book, the warm compress treatment is just one of many options that may help those suffering from dry eyes. Others include taking a break from screens, consuming fish oil regularly for the omega-3s, using artificial tears, and simply washing your eyes—including eyelashes where mites sometimes live. She describes the book as structured like a pyramid, with the treatments for more mild versions at the bottom of the pyramid and more severe treatments at the top.

Speaking of severe treatments: what about that whole “blood in your eyes idea”? Does rubbing blood in your eyes really help treat dryness? According to the doctor, new research from this year seems to indicate that yes, in fact, it actually does.

“This is really cool. So at first they were using patients’ blood serum and mixing it with saline to create liquid they could put in their eyes,” She explains enthusiastically. “Eventually, they decided to see if you could just prick your finger like diabetics do and stick the blood directly in your eye. And it seems to be effective.”

The doctor’s work

Dr. Yuan-Innes currently works at both the Cornwall Community Hospital in Cornwall and the Hôpital General de Glengarry General Hospital in Alexandria in the emergency department. In addition to her non-fiction publications, she also writes fiction novels and short stories as Melissa Yi. Since 2011, she has written the Hope Sze series, which follows a female doctor who uncovers mysteries and solves crimes in between her shifts at a Montreal hospital. She released the latest in the series, “Human Remains” in April of this year.

“The Emergency Doctor’s Guide to Healing Dry Eyes” releases on September 21, both in print through Windtree Press and online through Amazon.com. It will be available locally at Barnell’s Book Nook in Alexandria, as well as Cole’s, Dubuc Eye Care Centre, and Whole Health Pharmacy in Cornwall. A limited number of copies will also be available at The Review.

Visit https://melissayuaninnes.wordpress.com for more information about Melissa Yuan-Innes and her written work.