Dry eye affects 16.4 million in the U.S. and a recent study showed up to 6 million more may be undiagnosed despite experiencing symptoms (Farrand 2017) but which of your patients are at the greatest risk?
1. Advanced Age:
The prevalence of dry eye (DE) increases with age and affects up to 30% of adults aged 50 years and older (Ezuddin 2015).
2. Female Gender:
Twice as many women (8.8%) have been diagnosed with DE compared to men (4.5%), or about 11.1 million women compared to about 5.3 million men (Farrand 2017).
3. Prolonged Screen Time:
A 2014 study found that people who spent hours on their computers had a lower amount of mucus in their tears (Uchimo), and a 2018 study found a high prevalence of smartphone addiction related dry eye disease among undergraduate students (Shih).
4. Other Risk Factors:
Contact Lenses and Laser Eye Surgery may also cause or worsen dry eye. Medications including antihistamines have been associated with dry eye. Windy, smoky, or dry environments also increase tear evaporation.
If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcer and vision problems. Without adequate tears, patients may also have an increased risk of eye infection and decreased quality of life as a result of the frequent discomfort so make sure you adequately assess your at risk patients.
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