Dry Eye Dx and Tx
Web Forum Offers Snapshot of Dry Eye Patients' Experiences
By Katherine M. Mastrota, MS, OD, FAAO
Although you are reading this in February's issue of Contact Lens Spectrum, I'm composing it in December to meet the publishing deadline. December is a very busy month—lots of collegial events and holiday socializing.
As we're aware, socializing now encompasses Web-based technologies. Social media is a powerful tool for connecting and interacting, transforming electronic communication into interactive dialogue. And, there is quite a bit of dialogue about ocular surface disease (OSD) on the Web. A quick search returns a number of groups, blogs, and bulletin boards where dry eye sufferers can find support, advice, and a forum to share their experiences.
The Dry Eye Zone
A popular forum for OSD patients is the Dry Eye Zone (dryeyezone.com). The Dry Eye Zone, launched in 2005, is owned, operated, and moderated by Rebecca Petris, a dry eye patient. The site has an active bulletin board open to registered users and is linked to Ms. Petris' personal blog, newsletter, and an online dry eye store with products that site members and Ms. Petris find helpful in treating their symptoms. At its inception, the site included a Q&A section hosted by Frank J. Holly, PhD, a pioneer and forward-thinker in tear film study who founded The Dry Eye Institute in 1983.
The Dry Eye Zone boasts 1,500 active members and, according to the host's service statistics, has approximately 3 million hits with 55,000 unique visitors per month. These numbers represent a 50-percent increase in site traffic from 2009 and illustrate the scope of OSD.
It's interesting to note that the distribution of registrants across age groups from the second through sixth decades is very close. Although not scientific, this site-captured information suggests that dry eye disease may be as common in youth as in olderage. Sixty-three percent of the members list their diagnosis simply as “dry eye,” with the most specific cause of dry eye reported to be blepharitis and the least reported to be Sjögren's syndrome.
Threads on the Dry Eye Zone include current FDA-approved treatments and therapeutics, offlabel use of commercially available products, investigational procedures and treatments, holistic remedies, and unique list member “discoveries” that have been palliative to their symptoms. Questions and comments range from the most basic queries from newly diagnosed OSD patients to clinically sound, well-referenced, evidence-based statements posted by “veteran” members. In the “plug-a-doc” section, members discuss positive encounters with eyecare practitioners and offer positive feedback about their practitioner.
Dry Eye's Real World Impact
I highly recommend a visit to the Dry Eye Zone or to other sites such as Sjogrensworld.org or Healthboard.com. The frankness with which patients discuss the impact of OSD on their well-being is sobering. Desperation, sometimes depression, and the search for information regarding their circumstances lead them to nontraditional sources of care. Support from and commiseration with other OSD sufferers foster virtual bonding that some use to supplement and others use as a substitute for an eyecare professional.
Perusing the site is a robust reminder of the power we have to impact lives when we recognize, respect and remediate the symptoms of OSD. CLS
The author would like to thank Rebecca Petris for her contribution to this article.
Dr. Mastrota is secretary of the newly formed Ocular Surface Society of Optometry (OSSO). She is center director at the New York Office of Omni Eye Services and is a consultant to Allergan, AMO, B+L, Inspire, Noble Vision, Ista Pharmaceuticals, and Cynacon Ocusoft. You can reach her at email@example.com.