By Natalie Noble, OD
Our patients have varying eyecare needs throughout the year, including during the winter months. Anticipating and fulfilling those needs is essential to providing a high level of care.
As a partner of AEG Vision, educating patients about how to safeguard their eye health and achieve optimal vision, and then ensuring that all their eyecare needs are met, is at the core of our mission.
OCULAR SURFACE DISEASE & EXPOSURE TO THE ELEMENTS
The most common eye health and comfort issues during the winter are related to ocular surface disease and exposure to the elements. As the weather gets colder, patients are constantly exposed to increased dryness with dry heat inside, heaters blowing in cars, space heaters, and dry, cold air outside.
Patients with known dry eye disease often see a worsening in signs and symptoms during winter months, and patients without known dry eye may even develop mild symptoms in the winter, depending on their degree of exposure. Contact lenses, especially soft lenses, become more difficult to wear as well due to increased tear evaporation and subsequent excessive tearing, causing discomfort and blurriness.
Patients are also at risk for snowblindness, or photokeratitis, due to increased UV exposure from reflected snow and ice surfaces. Avid outdoor winter sports enthusiasts are most at risk. This condition causes pain, redness, tearing and blurriness resulting in temporary corneal damage and ocular surface inflammation.
Other ocular surface and lid conditions can be exacerbated in winter months, including pingueculitis, episcleritis, ocular rosacea, blepharitis, dermatitis, conjunctivitis, ocular allergies and corneal ulcers.
BUILDING A PRACTICE WITH FULL-SCOPE MEDICAL EYECARE TREATMENT CAPABILITIES
AEG Vision ensures that we are able to thoroughly address the many eye health and comfort issues our patients experience.
AEG Vision supports the delivery of specialized eyecare in addition to routine and primary medical eyecare. We are fully equipped to treat and manage ocular surface disease with the most advanced imaging technology, lab testing and in-office treatment options.
In meibomian gland disease (MGD), which is at the root of most cases of dry eye, reduction of the outermost tear layer, the lipid layer, causes rapid evaporation of the underlying aqueous layer and the onset of excessive tearing, particularly when outside in the cold air and wind. Mechanical lid treatments, such as LipiFlow and intense pulsed light (IPL) treatments, are most effective at preventing gland atrophy and improving function.
Other treatments, including dry eye-specific omega 3 supplements and regular usage of warm compress masks, also improve oil production in the meibomian glands. Meibo Rx drops can also be utilized to replace or enhance the lipid layer when production is limited or no longer possible.
Other etiologies include aqueous deficiency, treated by increasing aqueous production in the lacrimal glands via Rx drops such as cyclosporine and lifitegrast, as well as Mucin deficiency, treated by improving the health of the ocular surface goblet cells to induce secretion of the sticky mucin layer, required to prevent complete tear film instability.
We offer a robust dry eye workup for new and returning patients to establish baseline gland health and tear functional analysis. Initiating a customized dry eye treatment protocol in summer or fall will reduce winter ocular surface disease progression.
CONNECTION TO THE EXPERTS YOU & YOUR PATIENTS NEED
Along with a high level of technology, AEG’s doctors have access to a huge network of colleagues who can provide mentoring in all aspects of medical eyecare. When addressing winter eyecare needs and beyond, this kind of peer support significantly elevates care.
AEG strives to connect our doctors regionally and nationally to provide education and communication within each specialty. The development of AEG’s OD Education Committee within the Optometric Leadership and Advisory Council in 2023, along with a renewed focus on OD Community, has led to some exciting changes in the organization that allow for a strong sense of being part of a team. New resources for patient care and clinical guidelines within each specialty are due to be released in 2024.
THE POWER TO BE READY FOR WHATEVER PATIENTS NEED
A significant advantage of being part of a larger organization, like AEG Vision, is the ability to be fully staffed.
We are always available for same-day emergency appointments. While our schedule is full daily, our scheduling protocol allows for strategic placement of last-minute appointments for the most urgent patient needs. We are fully staffed with experienced ophthalmic technicians who are extremely knowledgeable about emergencies and provide vital assistance with in-office procedures, referrals and prescriptions that allow us to provide the highest level of care, even at the last minute.
My patients know our office is the place to come during winter–and year-round–for the best of care.