Dry Eye Disease (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a very common eye disease that affects a good number of the population especially women and people of the older age group. It may be apparent as dryness of the eyes, redness, and itching of the eyes, blurry vision, and sensation of grittiness or presence of a foreign body in the eyes.
Epidemiology and Economic Burden
The disease is reportedly the most common disease and may affect up to a third of the population above 65 years. The cases are most likely under-reported since there is no definite test for diagnosis and patients with mild symptoms may also no report to a doctor yet.
Because it causes dryness of the eyes due to reduced tear production or increased loss of tears due to tear film evaporation, treatment has mostly been centered on the use of artificial tears, astringents, and ocular lubricants which have been of a huge financial burden to NHS amounting to the prescription of about 6.4 million medications at a cost of over £27 million in 2014.
A study instituted by the University of Southampton to evaluate the impact of dry eye disease on the quality of lives of adults in the UK using an online survey that involved a thousand patients with the disease and another thousand without it. A questionnaire from the National Eye Institute was filled by the participants on their visual ability and also a EuroQol questionnaire on their health-related standard of life was administered and those who admitted to suffering from the disease answered extra questions to ascertain the severity of their condition.
The results were published in the journal BMJ Open and it was found that a greater number of the persons who partook in the test and were also positive for the disease had some issues with executing their daily activities, the study also showed that this group of persons had a higher tendency to be suffering from depression and anxiety. The worse the severity of the diseases was, the more chances of a decline in the social and emotional well-being of the patient including economic productivity.
Dr. Parwez Hossain, an Associate Professor in Ophthalmology at the University of Southampton who led the study said “This study provided some very useful information on the burden that dry eye disease places on patients as well as confirming the impact on work and social lives. What we also discovered, showed that the extent of the effects is consistent with the severity of symptoms. We also found that participants with dry eye disease symptoms were a lot more likely to suffer from other comorbidities, twice as many suffered from arthritis, hearing loss, or irritable bowel syndrome compared to the cohort without symptoms. Whilst we cannot draw causal associations through this study, the presence of dry eye disease does appear to impact an individual’s health and vision-related quality of life.”
At the end of the study, both groups also agreed to have had equal exposure to the use of digital screens and reading. The participants who had symptoms, however, had more contact with environmental factors like forced heating, air conditioning, or pollution. The Dr. Parwez team suggested that these factors were either more observed by patients with dry eye disease, or contributed to the disease.