Business

Help for dry eyes at the click of a mouse

Rebecca Petris, of Silverdale, created a Web site for chronic dry eye patients. She has the condition and hopes her efforts will help others.  - Photo by Rachel Brant
Rebecca Petris, of Silverdale, created a Web site for chronic dry eye patients. She has the condition and hopes her efforts will help others.
— image credit: Photo by Rachel Brant

An estimated 93 million people experience dry eye syndrome and struggle to find treatment for their condition.

A Silverdale woman hopes to improve the quality of life for those faced with this health issue.

“Nobody knows how many people have this problem,” said Rebecca Petris, founder of the Web site www.dryeyezone.com. “It’s a very undertreated problem.”

Petris started the Web site in 2005 for people with chronic dry eye. She also started a small business, www.dryeyeshop.com, which sells speciality products to sooth dry eye syndrome. The site features products that are not readily available in drugstores, according to Petris.

“People with dry eye are frequently not diagnosed properly and almost routinely not treated adequately,” she said. “There is a huge need for public awareness about this.”

Petris started a Web site about laser eye surgeries in 2001. The site is for patients struggling with short-term or long-term complications due to the eye surgeries. Petris was surprised to hear that numerous people have chronic dry eye.

“The most frequent problem we were hearing about was dry eye so we decided to start a site dedicated to dry eye patients,” she explained.

The dry eye Web site offers information about chronic dry eye including symptoms and causes of dry eye syndrome, as well as ways to treat and cope with the condition. It features a list of drugs currently undergoing clinical trials to become future dry eye treatments.

“This is an ongoing battle for us,” Petris said. “We’re always trying to look out for things that can help.”

Petris has dry eye syndrome and finds it beneficial to help others in their quests for treatment. Petris enjoys meeting and connecting with other dry eye patients.

“I find it helpful for myself to do something to help other people,” Petris said.

She used to finance commercial jets, but had to leave the profession due to her eye condition. Petris experienced complications from LASIK eye surgery and has dry eye syndrome.

“I had to leave that (profession) because of my eyes,” Petris said. “I couldn’t travel and put in the time.”

Petris also runs an Internet support group for dry eye patients. The group currently has 1,500 members.

“It’s a chance to connect with other people who have the condition,” Petris said.

Petris hosted a dry eye patient conference in 2006 near Tampa, Fla. It featured support group meetings, doctor lectures and question and answer sessions.

While preparing for the conference, Petris met the executive director of the Boston Foundation for Sight. She later traveled to their office and was fitted for scleral lens. The lens were customized for Petris and hold fluid against her eyes. They keep her eyes from drying out.

“I had not known they were used for dry eye,” Petris said.

Aside from helping dry eye patients, Petris strives to educate doctors on dry eye and dry eye products.

“I exhibit products at medical conferences to show doctors what’s available for people with dry eye,” she said.

Petris intends to host a dry eye conference for Puget Sound patients later this year. She also plans to launch the dry eye yellow pages Web site, www.dryeyeyellowpages.com, to help people find local doctors who treat dry eye syndrome.

Petris wants to lobby for more studies to be done about dry eye syndrome. She hopes to educate doctors and patients on new treatments.

“I want to reach doctors so they know there are products out there,” she said. “I want patients to know there is hope. There is a lot of information out there and there is help if they just keep looking.”

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