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Dry Eye Syndrome Common in Winter

SATURDAY, Jan. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Dry eye syndrome is common in winter because of cold, dry outdoor air and dry indoor heat, says an eye expert.

Symptoms include pain, blurred vision, a scratchy or burning sensation, or even watery eyes as the eyes try to compensate for the dryness, explains Pittsburgh-area ophthalmologist Dr. Michael Azar.

"Because both dry eye and allergies can cause watery eyes, differentiating the two conditions can be difficult and may require an eye exam," he said in a news release from the Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society.

Dry eye can occur at any age, but is more common among older adults, especially post-menopausal women. In some people, dry eye syndrome may be related to:

  • Conditions that affect the ability to produce tears, such as scleroderma, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases.
  • Certain medications, such as diuretics, antihistamines and beta blockers.
  • Eyelid structural problems that prevent them from closing properly.

Azar outlined some ways to deal with dry eye syndrome.

"Try artificial tears or warm compresses to assist with tear secretion if you have classic dry eye symptoms. At home, a furnace humidifier or room humidifier can help. More severe symptoms may require treatment such as oral doxycycline to improve tear quality, punctal plugs [stoppers inserted into the tear duct], topical steroids or topical cyclosporine (Restasis)," he said.

For most people, dry eye is simply a nuisance.

"However, severe dry eye can make you vulnerable to corneal infections, which can permanently affect your vision," said Azar. If artificial tears don't work, schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist, he advised.

More information

The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about dry eye.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Institute for Good Medicine, Pennsylvania Medical Society, news release, Jan. 25, 2011

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