About Dry Eye

Today, dry eye syndrome (DES) is a prevalent and often chronic condition that affects millions of people around the world (25 million in the US alone). This number is expected to grow substantially in the next decade due to an aging population.

The prevalence of the DES increases 35 percent each decade after age 40, with the largest percentage of cases found in adults aged 60-80. Apart from age, other risk factors include:

  • Female gender - women are more likely to have DES
  • Systemic diseases - Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and autoimmune disorders such as Sjögren's syndrome and Lupus
  • Use of certain medications - anti-cholinergics, anti-psychotics, anti-hypertensives, and selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors
  • Diet - low in omega-3 essential fatty acids

Dry eye disease is the most common complaint of patients when visiting their eye care professional. The severity of DES symptoms can vary from mildly irritating to severely disabling and can have a significant impact upon quality-of-life.

Most common symptoms reported by patients are:

  • Dryness of the eye’s surface
  • A gritty or foreign body sensation in the eye
  • Redness of irritation of the eye’s surface
  • Stinging or burning
  • Higher sensitivity to light
  • Mucous discharge or excess tearing
  • Increased frequency of blinking
  • Blurred vision or tired eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses

Most patients’ symptoms are worse in windy and/or low humidity conditions, during air travel, in air-conditioned drafts and with prolonged visual efforts associated with decreased blink rate such as reading and computer use. Treatment options may be geared towards symptom relief, enhancing quality of life, improving vision, slowing progression of the disease, restoring tear production, or correcting the issue that is causing DES. Depending on the severity of the disease, treatment options can be categorized as:

  • Over-the counter tear supplements or artificial tears, which may provide temporary relief
  • Omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as fish oils
  • Prescription anti-inflammatory topical cyclosporine A
  • Surgical insertion of punctual plugs to block tear drainage, which may increase the amount of tears that stay in the eye
  • Conjunctival procedures such as transplants and grafts are performed to restore damaged eye surfaces


More Information
National Eye Institute
Report of the International Dry Eye WorkShop (DEWS)