Patients suffering from dry eye disease not only have vision problems, but new research shows how it can negatively impact physical health and mental health. The study shows that these patients have a lower quality of life compared to those without symptoms.
Dry eye disease is a condition that can affect people of any age but is most prevalent in women and older people. It is estimated that up to a third of adults over the age of 65 have the condition, which includes symptoms such as irritation and redness in the eyes, blurred vision, and a sensation of grittiness in the eye.
This new study led by the University of Southampton explored how dry eye disease affects the lives of adults in the UK. It included one thousand patients with the condition and one thousand without. All patients were required to answer a questionnaire from the National Eye Institute about their visual function and a EuroQol questionnaire on health-related quality of life. Participants who declared that they had experienced dry eye were required to answer further questions to assess the severity of their symptoms.
It was found that a higher proportion of participants with dry eye disease had problems with mobility and experienced more difficulties in their day-to-day activities compared to patients without the condition. The study also revealed that they were more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety.
Patients with the most severe symptoms were more likely to report a negative impact on their social and emotional function and work productivity. The findings suggest people with dry eye disease have problems carrying out daily activities and work productivity due to adverse effects on visual function.
Dr. Parwez Hossain, 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 we also discovered showed that the extent of the effects are 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 disease compared to the cohort without symptoms.”
Researchers do note that some environmental factors could impact the symptoms patients with dry eye disease may encounter. While all participants in the study reported similar digital screen use levels and reading, those with dry eye disease symptoms reported more exposure to environmental factors such as air conditioning, forced heating, or air pollution. More research is needed to confirm whether these factors could contribute to the disease or be noticed more by sufferers.
As this study shows, dry eye disease may negatively impact vision and both physical health and mental health. With a reduced quality of life, it is essential for health care providers to understand the implications the disease may have on some people and offer treatment and support.