Shannon Bream has chronic corneal epithelial erosion syndrome, which is worsened by corneal map-dot fingerprint dystrophy.
As a result of Shannon Bream’s eye condition, she wore glasses when she was in elementary school and contacts in middle school. However, the overwhelmingly discomforting symptoms of dry eyes got worse in her adulthood and made it difficult for her to sleep. The surface of her cornea would stick to her eyelid each time she sleeps and then rip away when her eyeball moves.
This left her feeling like someone was stabbing her eyes upon waking up. Thankfully, Shannon’s condition was eventually diagnosed, and coupled with several treatments, she had surgery. Today, her eyes are very much better.
What Disease Does Shannon Bream Have?
Shannon Bream has chronic corneal epithelial erosion syndrome exacerbated by corneal map-dot fingerprint dystrophy. Chronic epithelial erosion syndrome is an eye condition in which the skin of the cornea breaks down, resulting in sharp pain, watering, and sometimes blurred vision. This is likely to happen when the patient wakes up from sleep.
This condition may occur as a result of some predisposing factors, the most common of which is previous mild injury (corneal abrasion) or corneal dystrophy (particularly epithelial basement membrane dystrophy, also called map-dot-fingerprint dystrophy or Cogan’s dystrophy). Corneal dystrophies are a rare group of genetic conditions that cause changes to the cornea without any inflammation, infection, or other eye disease. In the case of map-dot fingerprint dystrophy, the cornea’s surface becomes unusually delicate.
Epithelial erosion syndrome is usually treated by reducing friction between the eyelids and the eye, using lubricating ointments and/or drops to encourage total healing of the eye surface. On some occasions, other measures are needed.
How Shannon First Noticed the Issue With Her Eyes and the Struggle to Find a Solution
Not long before she turned 40, Shannon Bream woke up one night because she felt like her eyes were being stabbed. As published in PEOPLE in November 2019, She said she was in searing pain, and it happened any time she slept for over one or two hours.
“I couldn’t get any rest,” she said, adding that she had to set alarms to wake up to put in eye drops. “I couldn’t get any rest,” she said, adding that she had to set alarms to wake up to put in eye drops, and she also went everywhere with her eye drops, but they were of very little help.
The overwhelming discomfort she felt in her eyes usually triggered migraines and double vision. Sadly, after suffering for almost two years, the doctor she was seeing could not come up with any answers as to what might be wrong with her. “He told me he thought I was being too emotional,” Shannon said.
This devastated her because it was not what she wanted to hear. “I’m desperate for any lifeline, any diagnosis, any treatment to help me through this nightmare, and my doctor was questioning my sanity. That was really hurtful,” she said, adding that she felt like she would never get help. It was so bad that she considered death as her only escape from her pain, but thankfully, her husband talked her out of it.
Following research on top-rated eye doctors in Washington, D.C., Shannon called Dr. Thomas Clinch, a cornea specialist, and booked an appointment for the next day. He diagnosed her with chronic erosion syndrome made worse by corneal map-dot fingerprint dystrophy.
Does Shannon Bream’s Eye Issue Have a Cure?
Dr. Thomas told Shannon Bream that her condition was treatable but had no cure. While she was excited to finally have a diagnosis, she was broken to learn that she’ll have to live with it for the rest of her life. “I got into my car and was sobbing,” she said. “I wanted to crash my car into something.”
She eventually started treatment, and within a few weeks, she discovered she slept through the night for the first time in about two years. This, to her, was a miracle! Among the things Shannon tried were ointments, saline solutions, drops, and tear duct plugs. She also started taking fish oil.
In the fall of 2017, Dr. Thomas Clinch eventually performed laser surgery to correct Bream’s vision. As a result, she no longer needs to wear contacts, and her severe dry eye has improved.
Speaking of the surgery, Shannon said it really gave her back her life. “My eyes are never going to be perfect. But they’re 95 percent better,” she said. She went on to say that she still feels a little pain here and there overnight, but it’s nothing compared to what she used to feel, and it subsides within five minutes.