Medacs Healthcare

NOV 05/2012

GPs urged not to overlook dry eye syndrome

People in full-time and locum GP jobs are being urged not to overlook the possibility of dry eye syndrome when diagnosing patients.

The condition can be difficult to diagnose properly, as the symptoms vary from patient to patient, with most displaying sore, gritty or sticky eyes and a handful complaining of wateriness.

Because of the problems with misdiagnosis, ophthalmic doctors and nurse practitioners often see patients who have been referred for specialist investigation when simple treatment with dry eye drops could have eased their symptoms.

Shirley Miller, an ophthalmic nurse practitioner at the Queen Margaret Hospital in Fife, revealed that she often sees patients who have been referred directly from their GP or optometrist because the symptoms are still not widely recognised.

She revealed: "The vast majority of patients referred from their GP or optometrist have sore, gritty or sticky eyes.

"A small percentage of these patients will be suffering from watery eyes, but you could pick these patients up off the floor when I tell them their watery eyes are the result of dry eye syndrome."

The mainstay of treatment is special eye drops, administered four times a day, followed by referral to the hospital eye service if patients do not improve with this regime.

However, Ms Miller emphasised that while eye drops can be effective at treating dry eye syndrome, the condition can become more serious if left untreated, leading to corneal ulcers and other complications.

She said: "Lot's of people think 'oh it's just dry eyes'. But what they don't realise is that dry eye can be a very disabling condition and serious if not treated effectively.

"I've had two patients who have developed significant corneal ulcers due to untreated dry eye and another who had to undergo corneal 'glueing'."

For this reason, it is important that people in GP jobs in the UK ensure they are aware of the symptoms and are in a position to recommend appropriate and timely treatment.

GPs and optometrists who feel they need more information on dry eye syndrome may want to consider learning more as part of their CPD training to improve their confidence when it comes to diagnosing dry eye syndrome.

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