Dry eye disease may sound trivial. However, the condition may be more concerning than people may think. All but unheard of, dry eye disease – in its most severe forms – can lead to blindness.
Concerningly for India, dry eye disease could affect fifty percent of city dwellers in the country by 2030. This would make the condition among the most common in India, its prevalence comparable to better-known ailments such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Despite the potential for a dry eye disease crisis in little more than a decade, many have not heard of the condition. Of those who are aware, few may consider it a major concern.
The LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI) conducted a study using eyeSmart Electronic Medical Records (EMR) system to analyse millions of data records of patients. The findings were published in The Ocular Surface. The research revealed that around 45 percent of those in India’s urban areas currently suffer, or have suffered from, dry eye disease.
The study projects that, by 2030, 275 million Indians could be affected by the condition.
The study identifies a number of potential risk factors. These include area of residence, socio-economic status and professional work. Those working in computer-based vocations are at particular risk. Studies have also implicated exposure to pollution as a major risk factor.
As the name suggests, the hallmark symptom of the condition is dry eyes. This may not seem like much of an issue when compared to conditions such as diabetes. However, as noted above, the potential outcome of the disease can be severe.
The condition is typically caused by dysfunction to glands producing tears. These glands allow for a constant layer of lubrication and moistness to cover the eyes. Without this, dryness occurs. This is usually followed by irritation. Typical symptoms may include a burning sensation, itching, photophobia, red eyes and impaired vision.
More seriously, without the layer of tears across the eye microorganisms and debris are not removed, this can result in infections that can lead to damage to the eye – with the potential for blindness to occur.
Prevention and treatment
For many, preventative measures are all but out of reach. Living in a city — particularly a highly polluted area — is a risk in itself. Consequently, people may be unable to avoid the risk. Age also plays a role in developing the condition.
What can be done is to alter aspects such as long hours spent using a computer or phone by taking regular breaks. Fortunately, for those with the condition, there are means of treating it. Eye drops artificially recreating the tear layer can all but remove the symptoms.