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Having Dry Eye Can Be Miserable

New study reinforces the importance of talking about dry eye symptoms and treatment options with patient

A new study out of the U.K. showed that patients suffering from dry eye disease symptoms have a lower quality of life compared to those without symptoms, and those with the condition reported negative effects on visual function, their ability to carry out daily activities and their work productivity.

To many U.S.-based ODs, this doesn’t come as a surprise, but each time that these kinds of results are shared is a welcome opportunity to educate the public. Three ODs shared their reaction to this study.


Gina M. Wesley, OD, MS, FAAO, Complete Eye Care of Medina, in Medina, Minnesota, says that more studies on the impact of quality of life for dry eye patients is needed. “I am very big on prevention, and this is the sort of conversation I have with at-risk patients who are asymptomatic. I tell them that my dry eye patients who suffer on a daily basis would do almost anything to have prevented their issues due to suffering and impact on their quality of vision and performance.” Studies like this help reinforce the message that this is a negative experience, universally. “More awareness surrounding emotional and mental implications of dry eye disease needs to be promoted and talked about, especially in light of all our at-risk activities.”


Leslie O’Dell, OD, FAAO, clinical director, Medical Optometry America York, Pennsylvania, says that these types of studies may encourage optometrists to become more proactive in diagnosing and treating dry eye. Without ODs offering treatment options, many patients are left self-diagnosing or suffering through the symptoms. “Quality-of-life studies are very important to me and my patients. They create awareness around advancing disease and the significant negative impacts symptoms of dry eye disease (DED) have on our patients. They reinforce why over-the-counter treatments do not address the underlying cause of DED and the need for intervention both nutraceutically and pharmaceutically sooner in the disease process.


Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO, FSLSBeyond the discomfort, there are potentially larger impacts for patients, says Melissa Barnett, OD, FAAO, FSLS, FBCLA, principal optometrist at UC Davis, Davis Eye Center in Davis, California. “Dry eye disease not only affects the quality of life, but it also affects presenteeism,” the practice of coming to work when the employee is sick or injured. “This often results in reduced productivity.” But optometrists are a critical part of the care team that can intervene. “Early diagnosis, personalized management and collaborating with other providers may help improve the quality of life associated with dry eye disease,” she says.

Multiple tools exist for assessing dry eye symptoms.

Standardized Patient Evaluation of Eye Dryness (SPEED)

Ocular Surface Disease Index (OSDI)


The study, Patient-reported burden of dry eye disease in the UK: a cross-sectional web-based survey, noted that patients with mild symptoms are unlikely to report the condition to their doctor, making it difficult to state accurately how prevalent the disease is. Researchers conducted an online survey with 1,000 patients with known dry eye disease and 1,000 without it. “A higher proportion of participants with dry eye disease had problems with mobility and experience more difficulties in their day-to-day activities than patients without the condition. The surveys also revealed they were more like to suffer from anxiety and depression.

The study concluded, “DED symptoms were associated with negative impacts to socioemotional functioning, vision-related quality of life (QoL) function, daily activities and work productivity. Participants with worse DED symptoms had a greater decline in socioemotional functioning, vision-related QoL, daily activities and work productivity. Symptom severity determined by EDS was associated with severity on common DED instruments, such as OCI, DEQ-5, and SPEED, suggesting that the EDS may be a useful single-item questionnaire for assessing severity of symptoms in individuals with DED.

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