Millions Afflicted but Undiagnosed with Dry Eye Syndrome

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You've been staring at your computer or poring through ledgers for hours. You have hours more to go. Then you notice your eyes are dry, burning and feeling gritty. You could be among the estimated 20 to 30 million Americans with Dry Eye Syndrome, or even the 9 to 10 million suffering from moderate to severe dry eyes.

Dry eyes can be caused by many things: aging, extended contact leans wear, LASIK surgery, diabetes, arthritis or dietary deficiency of omega-3s. Prolonged computer use and dry air, stemming from either indoor heating or air conditioning, can exacerbate the symptoms.

A decrease in tear production or increased tear evaporation resulting in tears that are too “salty”, is what differentiates Dry Eye Syndrome from dry eyes. Left untreated, as the problem often is, it can cause serious problems, like scarring, ulcers or corneal infections.

“It can be a debilitating condition and many people just sweep it under the rug by using over-the-counter drops,” says Dr. Jeffery P. Gibard, MD of the Department of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School. “People just aren't aware that most of these drops are not healthy for the eye. All but one wash the natural electrolytes out of the eye, and the one prescription medication for dry eye has no effect on dry eye symptoms.”

The condition can be treated effectively by increasing the dietary intake of omega-3s. These essential fatty acids can be obtained primarily from salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, and tuna. Unfortunately, these foods are scarce in most American's diets because not everyone likes fish and the FDA has issued a warning not to eat tuna more than twice a week due to high mercury content.

January is National Eye Care Month. If your eyes are frequently dry, irritated or burning, it's time you saw your eye doctor. Even if you don't have dry eyes, an annual eye exam is in order if you have a family history of eye problems, are an African American over age 40, have a personal history of eye injury requiring medical or surgical care, are diabetic or are age 65 or older but not an African-American, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Adults over 40 should have their eyes checked every two to four years. Don't you owe it to your clients, and yourself, to make sure you are in peak shape for the busy season?

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