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Good Bye Dry Eyes: Winter Symptoms Can and Should Be Treated

Portland, Ore. – The Oregon Optometric Physicians Association is encouraging people to spot warning signs for dry eyes, a condition that can be heightened during wintertime and can impair vision if left untreated.

For nearly 10 years, 47-year-old Jill Palomaki of Vancouver felt her eyes were burning, sensitive to light, and watering excessively. She noticed the condition was worse at work when she was on the computer under the glare of fluorescent lights and near the air conditioner or heater. Jill thought it was a problem caused by her contact lenses and was just something she had to live with. A year ago, she began seeing optometric physician, Rachael Garrett, prior to LASIK eye surgery. Dr. Garrett conducted a series of tests and diagnosed the cause as dry eyes and has been treating her since.

“Many people have irritated eyes at this time of year and they overcompensate by blinking or rubbing their eyes a lot,” said Rachael Garrett, Portland optometric physician. “They think this is just an annoyance, when in fact it can be a serious condition that should be treated.”

Garrett says people should be on the lookout for the following warning signs:

Garrett says it’s important to treat the condition because excessive dry eyes can damage eye tissue and possibly scar the cornea, eventually impairing vision. Also, dry eyes can make contact lens wearing more difficult due to increased irritation and a greater chance of eye infection.

The dry eye condition can be aggravated during the winter by drier conditions outside and forced-air heating inside. Also, indoor activities such as working on the computer, watching television or reading can aggravate dry eyes because people tend to blink less frequently while performing these tasks. That’s why people who work in offices on the computer all day often have a greater risk of developing dry eye symptoms.

“Unfortunately, dry eyes cannot be cured,” add Garrett. “But the condition can be treated with increased humidity, over-the-counter or prescription eye drops, nighttime gels, oral medications, and/or small plugs to slow the loss of tears.”

Today, patient Jill Palomaki is using prescription eye drops and plugs to help her condition. “I’m so glad I asked my optometric physician about my dry eyes and am being treated. It’s a relief to feel better and know we caught the problem before it turned into something more serious.” says Palomaki.

About the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association
The Oregon Optometric Physicians Association is a statewide organization comprised of Doctors of Optometry, college of optometry faculty, optometric students and industry-related associates. It advocates advancing the quality, availability and accessibility of eye, vision and related health care. It also works to represent the profession of optometry, to enhance and promote the independent and ethical decision making of its members, and to assist optometric physicians in practicing the highest standards of patient care. Based in Milwaukie, Oregon, the OOPA has 380 members. For more information, visit www.oregonoptometry.org.