A new study shows that dry eye can do more than make your eyes red and irritated. Dry eye can make it harder for some people to do everyday tasks, while others experience extreme pain and suffer from debilitating depression and anxiety. This study is the first to detail how life is harder for the 30 million people in the U.S. living with dry eye disease.
Dry eye is often a source of frustration for both physicians and patients. It’s a complex disease that has many causes that often overlap and interact. Its causes and effects are different from patient to patient. Some patients show no signs of the disease on diagnostic tests but feel miserable. Others test positive for dry eye but feel fine.
While each person experiences dry eye differently, there are some common symptoms:
Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce enough tears or when the quality of the tears can’t keep the surface of the eye adequately lubricated. It frequently occurs with other health conditions. Environmental triggers, such as pollution or the weather, play a role. Sometimes it’s caused by medications, such as antihistamines, asthma medication or birth control pills. It can be made worse by computer or contact lens use.
As a result, it’s important for patients to clearly communicate what they are experiencing, and ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – need to better understand the impact dry eye can have on their patients’ lives.
To help both patients and their physicians, the researchers who conducted this latest study asked about 1,000 people with dry eye to respond to questionnaires that assessed their perception of their visual health and overall health. Results were then compared to the responses of people who do not have dry eye.
Patients with dry eye ranked their quality of life significantly lower compared with those without the disease. They found it harder to perform simple tasks of daily life, such as using the computer and getting dressed. They reported that the pain they were experiencing made it harder to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others. And, they reported experiencing more anxiety, depression, and worse overall health than those without dry eye.
The research was conducted by Shire, which markets the dry eye drug, Xiidra. It was presented in October at AAO 2018, the 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. The researchers said they hope their study will help improve communication between physicians and patients.
“There are other good studies out there about the quality of life issues for those living with dry eye disease, but often those are anecdotal stories shared by a few doctors or patients,” said one of the study’s co-authors, Jessica T. Markowitz, PhD. “We wanted to actually quantify the experience people have with this disease.”
“It’s not just patients complaining about symptoms anymore,” added lead researcher Ipek Ozer Stillman, MBA, MS. “We have scientifically and systematically captured their experience, captured how life is different for people living with dry eye disease.”