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    How sick building syndrome symptoms can mimic dry eye

    For one sufferer, a change of career alleviated the problem


    Change in career answer to dry eye?

    Formerly a member of the corporate office setting, Ray was not always a business owner—and certainly not always free to open the window for a breath of fresh air.

    Ray’s past career had him trapped inside an office cubicle in the Big Apple. Had the change in his working environment along with the change in his career “cured” Ray of his dry eye?

    Surely there are many other variables to consider, but for Ray, this move to a more out-of- office occupation freed him from his ocular discomfort allowing him to return to wearing contact lenses comfortably.

    But maybe it wasn’t ever dry eye that was bothering Ray. Sure, it would be easy to accept it as fact and move on, but what if it was something else?

    Could Ray have been suffering from sick building syndrome (SBS)?

    Related: How to know when it’s not dry eye

    SBS signs similar to dry eye

    The term "sick building syndrome" is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.1

    Symptoms of SBS include headache; dry cough; dry or itchy skin; dizziness and nausea; difficulty in concentrating; fatigue; sensitivity to odors, and, of specific interest, nose, throat, or eye irritation.

    Symptoms of SBS are likely the result of a combination of factors. These factors may include:

    Chemical pollutants from indoor sources such as adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents which may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs)—including formaldehyde

    • Ozone produced by printers and photocopiers

    • Biological pollutants such as viruses, bacteria, dust mites, pollen, and toxic black mold

    • Inadequate ventilation such as defective heating systems, malfunctioning ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.

    • Psychological factors such as excessive work stress, poor staff morale, poor interpersonal relationships, poor communication, dissatisfaction, and other psychosocial factors

    • Other factors such as poor or inappropriate lighting, fluorescent lighting, absence of sunlight, humidity, temperature, noise, bad office design, and poor ergonomics

    Related: How ODs can do better with dry eye

    Katherine M. Mastrota, MS, OD, FAAO, Dipl ABO
    Director of Optometry, New York Hotel Trades Council, Hotel Association of New York City, Health Center, Inc.


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    Optometry Times A/V