December 13, 2013
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BLOG: ‘Tis the season

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Read more from Darrell E. White, MD.

Not the holiday season, the heating season! If you live north of the Mason-Dixon Line and you take care of dry eye patients, you just got very busy. Why? Because furnaces all across North America went on sometime last month, and your patients have been slowly dehumidifying the air in their homes and workplaces. With that comes the “dry eye season,” as predictable in many areas as ragweed in the fall and corneal abrasions on Dec. 26.

The staff at SkyVision knows this is coming, and we try to head off unnecessary visits to the office by counseling patients on the phone. More tears. Turn on the humidifier. Move out from under vents to decrease the effects of moving air and dryness. There are lots of candles lit at this time of year — steer clear of the smoke. That kind of stuff.

Still, if you have a busy dry eye practice, there will be a certain number of folks who will be convinced that it couldn’t possibly just be dryness due to an environmental change.

So what’s a conscientious dry eye doc to do? It’s important to always remember that dry eye is very mysterious to our patients. Recall how challenging it is to explain why tearing is actually a classic symptom for DES. Sometimes it takes a very small worsening in the clinical picture to cause a change that is monumental for the patient, and all she has to go on is how well or how poorly she feels. Dry eye is really a lot like vision: Our patients call when they perceive a problem and it worries them.

Here’s my bid: Prepare your staff with tools to help your DES patients over the phone. Give them permission to bring those patients into the office for a visit, even if they were just in 6 weeks ago. This is a great opportunity to demonstrate to your patients and your staff that you really are serious about making DES patients feel better. Have some preprinted material or a link on your website ready to reinforce the teaching in the office about the heating season and how to treat the dryness that comes along with it. Both your patients and your staff will be impressed by your attention to detail and your commitment to dry eye.

You know, goodwill toward man. ’Tis the season, after all!