Summary: People who suffer from dry eye disease symptoms report visual problems, increased depression and anxiety, and mobility issues. Dry eye disease, researchers say, can have a negative impact on the overall quality of life for sufferers.
Source: University of Southampton
Patients suffering from dry eye disease symptoms have a lower quality of life compared to those without symptoms, a new study reports. The findings showed that patients with the condition reported negative effects on visual function, their ability to carry out daily activities and their work productivity.
Dry eye disease is a common condition and a frequent reason for patients to seek medical care. It can affect people of any age but is most prevalent in women and in older people. Symptoms include irritation and redness in the eyes, blurred vision, and a sensation of grittiness or a foreign body in the eye.
It has been reported that up to a third of adults over 65 years old have the condition, although the actual number is likely to be higher as there is no established diagnostic test and people with mild symptoms are less likely to report them to their doctor.
Treatment often involves prescriptions of artificial tears, ocular lubricants and astringents, which come at a cost to the NHS; in 2014, 6.4 million items were prescribed at a cost of over £27 million.
This new study, led by the University of Southampton, set out to explore how dry eye disease affects the lives of adults in the UK through an online survey of one thousand patients with the condition and further one thousand without. Participants undertook a questionnaire from the National Eye Institute about their visual function and a EuroQol questionnaire on health-related quality of life. Those who declared that they experienced dry eye disease also answered further questions to assess the severity of their symptoms.
The results, published in the journal BMJ Open, showed that a higher proportion of participants with dry eye disease had problems with mobility and experienced more difficulties in their day-to-day activities than patients without the condition. The surveys also revealed they were more likely to suffer from anxiety and depression.
Those with the most severe symptoms we more likely to experience a negative impact on their social and emotional functioning as well work productivity, including missing more time from work as a result of their symptoms.
Dr Parwez Hossain, Associate Professor in Ophthalmology at the University of Southampton, led the study. He 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.
“Whilst we cannot draw causal associations through this study, the presence of dry eye disease does appear to impact on an individual’s health and vision related quality of life.”
Although both groups reported similar levels of digital screen use and reading, the cohort with symptoms reported more exposure to environmental factors such as air conditioning, forced heating or air pollution. The research team believe that these factors could either contribute to dry eye disease, or be noticed more by sufferers.
Patient-reported burden of dry eye disease in the UK: a cross-sectional web-based survey
To compare sociodemographics and vision-related quality of life (QoL) of individuals with or without dry eye disease (DED); and to explore the impact of DED symptom severity on visual function, activity limitations and work productivity.
Adults ≥18 years with (N=1002) or without (N=1003) self-reported DED recruited through email and screened.
Main outcome measures
All participants completed the 25-item National Eye Institute Visual Function Questionnaire (NEI VFQ-25), with six additional questions (items A3–A8), and the EuroQol 5 dimensions 5 levels. DED participants also completed Impact of Dry Eye on Everyday Life questionnaire, 5-item Dry Eye Questionnaire and the Standardised Patient Evaluation of Eye Dryness questionnaire along with the Ocular Comfort Index, Work Productivity and Activity Impairment and the Eye Dryness Score (EDS), a Visual Analogue Scale.
Baseline demographic and clinical characteristics were similar in participants with versus without DED (mean age, 55.2 vs 55.0 years; 61.8% vs 61.0% women, respectively) based on recruitment targets. Scores were derived from NEI VFQ-25 using the new 28-item revised VFQ (VFQ-28R) scoring. Mean (SD) VFQ-28R scores were lower in participants with versus without DED, indicating worse functioning (activity limitations, 73.3 (12.3) vs 84.4 (12.3); socioemotional functioning, 75.3 (21.5) vs 90.3 (16.2); total score, 71.6 (12.8) vs 83.6 (12.6)). Higher percentages of problems/inability to do activities were observed among those with versus without DED. The impact of DED on visual function was worse for participants with more severe DED symptoms, as assessed by EDS. In addition, a higher EDS was associated with worse symptoms on common DED scales and a worse impact on work productivity.
DED symptoms were associated with negative effects on visual function, activities and work productivity, whereas worse DED symptoms had a greater impact on vision-related QoL and work productivity.