Hazy Shade of Winter

Dry eye syndrome most prevalent in winter

(RxWiki News) Cold, dry outdoor air and dry indoor heat account for a spike in dry eye syndrome cases in the winter months.

Dry eyes, ironically, can result in watery eyes because of the organs' attempt to compensate for the dryness. Other symptoms include blurred vision, scratchy or burning sensation and pain.

It's important to differentiate between dry eye syndrome and allergies since both can cause similar symptoms. That may require an eye exam, according to Pittsburgh-area ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Azar.

Dry eye syndrome may be a result of other conditions that affect the eyes' ability to produce tears. These conditions include scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis and collagen vascular diseases.

Medications including beta blockers, antihistamines and diuretics can also cause dry eye syndrome.

"Dry eye is a common condition that is often made worse by a low humidity environment," said Dr. Christopher Quinn, O.D., F.A.A.O., President of OMNI Eye Services. "Often the condition is the result of a poor quality tear film as much as a poor quantity of tears. Treatment of associated eyelid disease such as blepharitis can significantly improve the patients symptoms and the quality of the ocular surface."

Dr. Azar recommends artificial tears or warm compresses to assist with tear secretion. Humidifiers also help. More severe cases may require an oral medication to improve tear production, surgerical interventions such as punctal plugs (inserted into tear ducts) or topical steroids.

Dry eye syndrome makes eyes more vulnerable to corneal infections, but generally the condition acts as a mild nuisance for most patients.

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Review Date: 
February 2, 2011