While the term “dry eye disease” may conjure up images of a mildly irritating condition, the disease has the potential to cause blindness — a condition considerably more severe than a minor irritation.
Studies project that, by 2030, 275 million Indians could be affected by dry eye disease. Due to the sheer number of people it may affect, and the complications that can arise, the condition cannot be taken lightly and there is a need for new modes of treatment.
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.
What makes the condition so common in urban areas are the risk factors that cause it. These include area of residence, socioeconomic 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. Due to this, few Indians can really claim to be free of some manner of risk of developing the condition, as pollution is now rife in the country – in urban and rural areas alike.
A potential new treatment for the condition comes in the form of enzyme infused eye drops according to a study published in the Journal of Translational Vision Science and Technology.
The study conducted a trial of eye drops in which the enzyme DNase was added. Results of these tests were compared to a negative control in which the same eye drops were added without the additional DNase. Those in the DNase group reported less discomfort and were found to have healthier corneas.
“In dry eye disease, several things happen. There is an increase in the number of white blood cells called neutrophils that gather on the surface of the eye,” said principal investigator of the study, Dr Sandeep Jain. “Neutrophils release DNA which forms webs on the cornea called neutrophil extracellular traps, which cause inflammation of the ocular surface and attract additional neutrophils in a vicious cycle.”
DNase helps to break down these DNA webs, reducing inflammation occurring on the surface of the eye. It is this inflammation that is the issue with dry eye disease, and so any reduction of inflammation will see symptoms improve.
The DNase infused eye drops better mimic the natural function of tears — which also contain DNase — in maintaining a healthy cornea. The researchers plan on expanding the size of the study and potentially releasing the drops as a much-needed treatment for the condition.