Panelists Discuss Dry Eye Disease Risk Factors and Research

Samantha Swamy

Dry eye disease (DED) afflicts an estimated over 30 million people in the United States alone, and nearly half of U.S. adults experience dry eye symptoms regularly. Experts say the pain associated with DED can make it feel as if there is sand in your eyes, or it can be so severe that you may not be able to open your eyes. During a briefing in Washington, D.C. on July 11 hosted by the Tear Film & Ocular Surface Society (TFOS) in partnership with the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (AEVR), TFOS founder Dr. David Sullivan noted that there is no treatment for DED but “with research funding, we hope to develop a cure.” Researchers study factors associated with DED such as autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disease, contact lens and cosmetic wear, and digital device use which can exacerbate the condition.

"What do an iPhone and a tube of mascara have in common?,” asked Amy Sullivan, executive director of TFOS. “They both promote dry eye disease.” Dry eye disease is twice as common in women as in men, “which makes this a women’s health issue,” said Dr. Janine Austin-Clayton, director, Office of Research on Women’s Health at the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Penny Asbell, professor of ophthalmology, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, discussed the impact of contact lens wear on DED. “There is a 2 to 5 times increased risk of dry eye disease with contact lens use,” she said. “But we still don’t know if contact lenses cause dry eye disease or if underlying dry eye disease is exacerbated with contact lens use.”

Dr. Leslie O’Dell, doctor of optometry, Wheatlyn Eye Care, described how cosmetics play a role in promoting dry eye disease. “We know that they contain carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and neurotoxins but we need more information about these chemicals we are exposing ourselves to every day and how they contribute to dry eye disease.” Digital device use contributes to DED, said Dr. Scott Schachter, doctor of optometry, Vision Source, who added that too often he’s unable to treat patients with severe dry eye. “It’s devastating,” he said. “I’d like to find ways to prevent it.” For more information, click here

Samantha Swamy is a Communications Intern with Research!America.

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We have health challenges in this country that science will provide answers for if given the chance and we haven't given science that opportunity
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